Friday, July 18, 2014

One Word of Truth Outweighs the Whole World

"One word of truth outweighs the whole world." —Alexander Solzhenitsyn

I wish more people understood that factual statement. They seem to think that it is a numbers game and that numbers determine what is true, right, moral, or acceptable. This might work for society, but society does not determine what is true, right, moral, or acceptable, nor does it have the authority or power to change it. As determined as they are to suppress the truth in their unrighteousness, God will hold them accountable and judge them accordingly. It does not matter what kind of numbers society has backing their ludicrous ideologies and beliefs, God outnumbers them all! The Christian would do well to remember and practice these things:
"I am The Way, and The Truth, and The Life." —Jesus; John 14:6a

"Your Word is truth." —Jesus; John 17:17b

"Be diligent [Study] to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." —2 Timothy 2:15

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching [What is right.], for reproof [What is wrong.], for correction [How to get right.], for training in righteousness [How to stay right.]; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." —2 Timothy 3:16-17

"Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so." —Acts 17:11

"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." —1 Corinthians 2:12-13
Below are the most common fallacious arguments typically employed by the world in their illogical thinking, whether it be self-professing "atheists," Evolutionists, homosexuals, or other Post-Modern, Humanistic individuals. Appeal to Common Belief, Appeal to Majority, Appeal to Popularity, or Bandwagon is the most common fallacy employed, assuming that numbers some how determine what is true, right, moral, or acceptable. But as the quote above informs us, "One word of truth outweighs the whole world."
Appeal to Authority: Referencing an 'expert.' (The expert, of course, may not be an expert, but they are a touchstone that people use to avoid having their own expertise challenged.)
Appeal to Common Belief, Appeal to Majority, Appeal to Popularity, Bandwagon: If others believe it to be true, it must be true.
Appeal to Emotion: If it feels good, it must be true.
Appeal to Fear: Gaining compliance through threats. (E.g., calling someone a "homophobe")
Appeal to Pity, Appeal to Sympathy: Going for the sympathy vote. (Please feel so sorry for me or my cause that you agree with me.)
Assertion: What I say is true.
Attack the Person (a.k.a. Ad Hominem): Distracting them from their argument.
Begging the Question: Circular reasoning to prove assumed premise.
Cherry Picking, Incomplete Evidence, Stacking the Deck, Suppressed Evidence: Pointing at individual cases/data that seem to confirm a position, while ignoring significant portions of cases/data that contradict that position.
Example: "There is scientific evidence that homosexuals are born that way because:
  • with identical twins, both are homosexual
  • with identical triplets, all are homosexual
  • with identical triplets where one is female and the other two are male (or vice versa), either all are homosexual or just the two of the same gender."
With the above example, a form of Stacking the Deck, the cases of scientific evidence to the contrary (which far outnumber the above examples) are deliberately overlooked or dismissed entirely, where:
  • with identical twins, only one is homosexual while the other is not
  • with identical triplets, only one is homosexual while the other two are not
  • with identical triplets where one is female and the other two are male (or vice versa), only one of the three is homosexual while the others are not, or one of the two with the same gender is homosexual while the other is not.
Missing the Point: Drawing the wrong conclusion.
Red Herring: Distracting with an irrelevancy.
Repetition: Repeating something makes it more true.
Social Conformance: Agree with me or be socially isolated.
Strawman: Attack a weak argument used by the other person, making it seem their entire argument. (You have a several arguments for your case. I disprove one of those arguments, therefore the whole case is false.)
Wishful Thinking: 'A' is true because I want it to be true.
As you read over the above fallacies, no doubt examples of them were brought to your mind from arguments/debates with self-professing "atheists," Evolutionists, homosexuals, etc. Once you understand these logical fallacies, you will be able to recognize them on the fly and stop your opponent in their tracks by calling attention to their erroneous arguments. These fallacies are all the world has to fall back on, and they will continuously fall back on the Appeal to Common Belief, Appeal to Majority, Appeal to Popularity, or Bandwagon fallacies because they think numbers make the difference. In society they might (for a time being), but on Judgment Day before the throne of God they will not mean diddly because truth and justice will prevail. These people will know how wrong they were and it will be too late for them. Just because the odds seem stacked against you, do not fret; if truth is on your side, that is all that matters.
"Prove [examine] all things; hold fast that which is good." —1Thessalonians 5:21

"Hold fast the form of sound words, which you have heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." —2 Timothy 1:13

"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised)." —Hebrews 10:23

"One word of truth outweighs the whole world." —Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Thursday, July 17, 2014

What Does the Lord Require of You?

by Alexander Smellie, "On the Secret Place," 1907

"What does the Lord require of you?
  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
" Micah 6:8

Simplicity and comprehensiveness mark the requirements of my God. He can abbreviate His demands into the fewest words; but they are words which embrace . . .
     the inward and outward,
     the present and future,
     the earthly and the heavenly.

I may fall into serious error regarding His will for me:

It is not a religion of ritual observances which He requires. How easily I attach an undue importance to ceremonies and forms, rites and penances and fasts!

Nor does He solicit primarily a religion of external moralities. God looks on my heart.

Nor is it a religion of emotions of which He is in quest. I must not put excitement and tears, in the place of saving grace and childlike obedience.

But see, my soul, God asks us to act justly. I cannot be His, unless I do justly. Everything that takes an improper advantage of another, and all that departs from the straightest line of absolute rectitude—I must hate and abjure. It is a demand which pierces deeper than it seems. For the integrity of conduct He desires—is the outcome only of a conscience He has quickened, and a will He has bent into submission to His law. The ethics of the Gospel are preceded and rendered possible, by the redemption and regeneration of the Gospel.

And God asks tenderness. He counsels me to love mercy. The world is full of sorrow, and I am to move through it as a good physician, befriending and uplifting those in need.

It is what He does Himself. Every glorious quality has its fountain in Him—but pre-eminently the quality of mercy. He is the great Forgiver and the great Helper—no earthly father loves like Him, and no mother is half so mild. So my feeble torch is but kindled at His altar. My charities and philanthropies must be learned in His school, who pardons my ten thousand transgressions!

And God asks humility. He commands me to lay my hand in His, and to walk humbly in His company. Nothing is so essential as poverty of spirit. It is the source and spring from which alone runs the fertilizing river of a holy life. The humble heart is where the flowers of Heaven find their congenial soil, and grow into beauty and fragrance. I only begin to be a disciple, when my proud heart is brought low—and my Savior is lifted high.

Now, my Father, if these are to be the features of my soul—then it is manifest that none but You can create them, and can nurture them, and can lead them to their perfection. Do the work Lord, and have the glory!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Studying To Be Approved, Like the Bereans

Principles of Approach
  1. In dealing with biblical beliefs, we should begin by stressing the common denominators that are held by all Bible believing Christians instead of stressing the areas of disagreement. For example, in regard to prophecy:
     
    1. Christ is coming back to this earth literally, visibly, and personally.
       
    2. Eventually all the dead bodies of all departed souls will be resurrected.
       
    3. The Christians alive at the Second Coming will be translated without tasting death.
       
    4. All the Non-Christians will stand before Christ on the Day of Judgment.
       
    5. All Christians will one day stand before Christ for Judgment.
       
    6. This present world will be destroyed by fire and a new earth and new heavens will be created.
       
    7. The righteous will go into eternal blessedness and the wicked into eternal torment.
       
  2. The differences of opinion over the minute details of biblical beliefs should never constitute the test of fellowship, friendship, or membership. (This does not, however, include deliberate heretical beliefs, or similar such things, wherein we are commanded to test the spirits and not to extend the hand of fellowship.)
     
  3. It is important to study biblical positions other than your own position, because
     
    1. You may be wrong.
       
    2. You need to understand compassionately the doctrinal views of Christians who disagree with you.
       
    3. Your own position will be stronger if it is tested by being exposed to other positions.
       
    4. Truth is never afraid of light.
       
The Christian who acts the part of the Berean and practices 2 Timothy 2:15 will exemplify the above. The reason most Christians are afraid to study opposing views, or to even study their Bible in the least, is because they are afraid to find out, and admit, that they have believed wrongly. It is a matter of stubborn pride, refusing to acknowledge the truth that we are fallible and imperfect and admit when we are or have been wrong. Remember, it is we who should be conforming to the truths revealed in Scripture—not trying to force Scripture to conform to us.

Some People Want Only As Much of God's Salvation As Will Keep Them Out of Hell

"Some people want only as much of God's salvation as will keep them out of Hell, and they measure out with unconscious precision how much worldliness and sin they can still hang on to without jeopardizing their chances. This is 'conversion' without repentance. Flee from it!" —David Shepherd

"Are you guilty of this insidious practice? Are you unconsciously weighing out each day how much sin and worldliness you can still enjoy, and yet miss Hell's eternal torment and flames? If this is the case with you, then you are a religious pretender and a gross hypocrite who needs to swiftly run to the foot of the Cross and repent of such an atrocity!

"A 'worldly Christian'? Can there be such a thing? Or is this a term that the backslidden Church came up with to try to appease their guilty consciences and to excuse their ungodly ways? The concept of a 'worldly Christian' is a total absurdity! A true Christian is devoted, dedicated, or consecrated to God's service—not worldliness. We are either devoted to Jesus—or to the world. Which is it for you?" —C. Giordano

"Nothing worse can happen to a church, than to be conformed to this world! Those who would be transfigured by Jesus, must not be disfigured by conformity to the world." —Charles Spurgeon

"If I find anyone who is settled down too snugly into this world, I always doubt whether he's ever truly been born again." —A. W. Tozer

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money!" Matthew 6:24 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Is Christ's Return Imminent?

by Dr. Robert Morey

  1. The common denominator: No Christian can rightfully set a date for Christ's return for no one knows the exact hour or day of His return. (Matt. 24:36, 42, 44; 25:13).
     
  2. The imminent return theory: Christ's return is possible this very minute. It is always at hand, ready to happen at any moment. There are no signs or prophecies that must precede Christ's coming for the church. It will be an absolute surprise to the Christian for it will come "as a thief in the night." This means Christ's return will be sudden, without warning, a surprise, and a secret.

    According to this theory, Christ's return was imminent for the apostles for they looked for Christ's return to happen suddenly and without warning. It has always been imminent throughout the ages.
     
  3. The historic and majority view:
     
    1. Christ's return for his church is preceded by signs and fulfilled prophecies which the observant Christian will see and thus prepare himself for the return of Christ. Only the disobedient Christian will be caught off guard by the coming of Christ. For the obedient Christian, Christ's return will not be as "a thief in the night". (Matt. 24:25; 1 Thess. 5:1-9, 11 Thess. 2:1-12).
       
    2. Because of the absence of the necessary signs in the sky and on the earth and the many prophecies which must yet be fulfilled which precede Christ's coming, His coming was not imminent from the time of the apostles up to the present day.
       
    3. While we cannot know the exact hour or day of Christ's return, the presence or absence of the signs and fulfilled prophecy which precede and herald that coming do indicate, according to Scripture, if that coming is far or near. (Lk. 21:25-31; Matt. 24: 32-33).
       
    4. Because there are signs and fulfilled prophecies which precede Christ's return, we are told to watch for them. (Matt. 24:42; 25:1-13; Lk. 21:28).
       
    5. The nearness or farness of Christ's return should not affect our continued preparation for His return. All the signs and prophecy may come to pass in any generation of believers.

      Illustration: A young couple prepares for their first baby even though they know it is months away and that the birth is preceded by the signs of labor.
       
    6. Once all the signs and fulfilled prophecies have come to pass, then the return of Christ is truly imminent.
       
  4. The teaching of Christ. (I Tim. 6:3, 4): Christ taught that certain signs and fulfilled prophecies would precede His return. These signs and prophecies mean that His return is not to be viewed as secret, private, sudden, a surprise, or “as a thief in the night" so far as the observant Christian is concerned. (Lk.21-.25-28). The following things are to precede Christ's return according to His own teaching. These things reveal that the apostles could not have possibly thought or taught that Christ's return was imminent.
     
    1. Before His ascension, Christ prophesied the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Because of this prophecy, Christ could not come until His words had been fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. Thus from His ascension to Pentecost, Christ's return was not imminent. (Lk. 24:49).
       
    2. Before His ascension, Christ prophesied that Peter would grow old; he would then be captured and finally be martyred for his testimony for Him. Because of this prophecy, Christ could not return as long as Peter was alive. Peter had to grow old, be captured, and finally be martyred to fulfill the words of Christ. All the Christians knew that as long as Peter was alive, Jesus could not come. Peter died around A.D. 67. Thus from the ascension to Peter's death (67 A.D.), Christ's return was not imminent. (John 21: 18-19; 1 Pet. 1:13-15).
       
    3. Having established that Christ's coming was not imminent until Peter's death (A.D. 67), none of Paul’s or Peter's Epistles can have any references to an imminent return of Christ because all of the epistles were written before A.D. 67 and both men knew the prophecies of Christ, and that His coming was not possible at that time. The epistles of Paul and Peter make no reference to an imminent return of Christ.
       
    4. Before His ascension, Christ prophesied that His church would be planted in Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, and then to “the ends of the earth.” This prophecy was not fulfilled by the early church and has yet to be fully fulfilled. Until the church has been planted in every tribe, tongue and nation, Christ's coming is not imminent. (Acts 1:8; Matt. 28:19, 20; MK. 16:15; Lk. 24:7f; Rev. 7:9).
       
    5. Before His ascension, Christ prophesied the total destruction of Herod's temple by foreign armies. The temple was not destroyed until A.D. 70. Thus from His ascension to the destruction of Herod's temple (A.D. 70), Christ's return was not imminent. (Matt. 24:1; Mk. 13:1; Lk. 21:5, 6).
       
    6. Before His ascension, Christ prophesied certain signs to precede His return. These signs were not present in the early church and are not fully present right now. They are still future. Thus until all these signs are clearly and fully fulfilled, Christ's coming is not imminent. (Matt. 24-, Mk.13, Lk. 21).
       
    7. After His ascension, Christ prophesied that the apostle Paul would go to Rome and preach His gospel. Until Paul got to Rome, Christ could not come. Thus from His ascension to the time when Paul got to Rome (A.D. 61), Christ's return was not imminent. (Acts 23:11; 27:24). None of Paul’s epistles written before he got to Rome could possibly teach that Christ's return was imminent.

    8. After His ascension, Christ prophesied that the church at Smyrna would pass through a great persecution in the future. He challenged them to suffer faithfully. Until the Smyrna church had been through this trial, Christ could not come. Thus from His ascension to the trial of the church at Smyrna, Christ's coming was not imminent. (Rev. 2:10).
       
    9. Christ in various parables connected His church and His coming with the end of the age. Until all the Biblical Prophecies leading up to the end of the age, and the prophecies concerning the end of the age have been fulfilled, Christ cannot come. Thus Christ's return cannot be imminent. (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43, 47-50; 25:14-30)
       
  5. The teaching of the apostles: In addition to Christ's prophecies which were to precede the second coming, the apostles added prophecies of their own which made an imminent return impossible.
     
    1. Peter stated that Christ could not return until the time for restoration of all things as predicted by the Old Testament prophets. To Peter, Christ's coming could not be imminent because of his prophesied death and the prophecies of the Old Testament prophets. (Acts 3:21).
       
    2. Paul prophesied a coming apostasy in the Ephesian church. Until this great apostasy in the Ephesian church had taken place, Christ could not come. His return was not imminent. (Acts 20: 28-30).
       
    3. Paul plainly states in 11 Thess. 2 that Christ's coming was not imminent because the great apostasy and the coming of the Antichrist must take place first. Christ's return is not imminent until these things are accomplished.
       
    4. The book of Revelation places the return of Christ in Chapter 19. Until all the events leading up to this chapter are accomplished, Christ's return cannot be considered imminent.
       
    5. In Scripture, the coming of Christ is always connected with the end of the age (Matt. 24:28:20; 1 Cor. 1:8; 15:23, 24). The following things must happen before the end of the age, thus before the return of Christ:
       
      1. Israel had to be destroyed as a nation, enslaved and scattered over all the earth. A long time of persecution and distress would be upon the Jew. (Deut.28:63-68; Ezk. 37f). Until they were gathered back to the land, Christ's return was not imminent. Thus the early church knew that Christ's return was not imminent. It has only been since 1948 that this prophecy has been fulfilled.
         
      2. The Roman Empire had to be destroyed. This empire would break apart into many states. The empire would be in this condition until the end of the age. Until the fall and ruin of the Roman Empire had taken place, Christ could not come. To the early church this was conclusive proof that Christ could not return in their day until the then present very powerful Roman Empire fell apart, went into ruin. (Dan. 2:40-43; 7:7-8, 23-25).
         
      3. When the last stages of this age begin, the world must be sufficiently one in religion, commerce, and government for the Antichrist to take complete control of the earth. Until the World is at this condition, Christ's return is not imminent.
         
      4. Another possible proof is gained from the widely held view that Rev. 2-3 gives prophetically the seven future spiritual conditions of the church. Thus until the church had reached the Laodicean stage, Christ's return could not be imminent.

Conclusion.
The coming of Christ could not have been imminent for the early church because of the many prophecies that had to be fulfilled first. The coming of Christ cannot be imminent today because the Scriptures definitely prophesy certain events to precede the coming of Christ. These events are still future.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

God Separates the Sin Which He Hates—From the Soul Which He Loves

by William Nicholson, "Afflictions!" 1862

"Affliction does not come from the dust, neither does trouble spring out of the ground. Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward." Job 5:6-7

Man is born in sin, and therefore born to trouble. There is nothing in this world we are born to, and can truly call our own—but sin and trouble!

Actual transgressions are the sparks which fly out of the furnace of original corruption.

Why then should we be surprised at our afflictions as strange, or object to them as severe--when they are the effects of sin, and under God's divine superintendence?

Afflictions are the common lot of man. "Man is born to trouble!" These afflictions are . . .
     grievous,
     various,
     numerous,
     and successive.

None are exempt from afflictions. For wherever there is sin, there is trouble. "Man is born to trouble!"

The poor endure it—the rich are not exempt.

To the pious, a bitter cup is assigned—and the wicked too have aching heads and hearts.

Grandeur, nobility, and royalty—are also associated with trouble.

The heart of the peasant, and that of the monarch—are alike smitten with anguish.

In youth, in middle age, in later life—there is trouble.

In health, in wealth, in honor, in elevation—there is trouble.

In successful enterprise,
in vast financial accumulation,
in places of nobility,
in beautiful mansions, and splendid palaces
—there is no exemption from trouble!

Go where you will, you will find trouble! Take the wings of the morning, and fly to the uttermost parts of the earth, and even there you will find it. Enter the deep shades of solitude, and it is there.

Crown yourselves with royalty;
take the exhilarating wine;
engage in the giddy dance;
listen to entrancing music and convivial songs;
visit the drama, and other theatric performances
—and you may for a season drown your sorrow.
But the clouds of trouble are sure to gather over your heads!

You are born to trouble.

It is your inevitable lot.

You will yet have to sicken, to suffer, and die!

Brethren, you know that, "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows!" John 16:33

Afflictions are designed for chastisement. Afflictions are designed to awaken—correct, reform, divert from sin and the world—and to transfer the affections to Heaven. They "are for our profit." Hebrews 12:10

By affliction, God separates the sin which He hates—from the soul which He loves!

Two things should comfort believers under afflictions:
  1. That what they suffer is not Hell.
  2. That it is all the Hell they shall suffer.
Our enjoyments are greater than our afflictions.
And our afflictions are much less than our sins.

The source of affliction is not chance or mere natural causes. "Affliction does not come from the dust, neither does trouble spring out of the ground." If afflictions came from chance, there would be nothing wise, intelligent, reasonable, or good, in them—they would be dark, confused, and miserable.

Afflictions are Divinely appointed.

Job could say, "He performs the thing that is appointed for me."

David rejoiced to say, "All my times are in Your hand."

And Paul comforted the Christians at Thessalonica by the doctrine of Divine appointment: "No man should be moved by these afflictions, for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto." 1 Thessalonians 3:3.

That afflictions are appointed by God, is comforting, for it indicates that:
  1. Our afflictions will be mingled with mercy. They are appointed by our gracious Father, who knows our frame, etc. They are sent by the God of love. To one who loves God, it is a great comfort to see His hand in everything that befalls us. It is enough, and ought to be enough, that it is the Lord's doing—let Him do what seems good unto Him. "I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for You are the one who has done this!" Psalm 39:9

    When Job was deprived of all his substance by the Chaldeans and Sabeans, he said, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised!" To have everything ordered and arranged by God, is all that we can desire!
     
  2. Our afflictions are sent in wisdom. It is highly conciliating to view every separate event, as a part of God's one all-wise scheme; and to know that when our plans are frustrated, God's plans remain unalterably wise. He knows what is best for us, and His plans never fail!
     
  3. Afflictions are designed to produce glorious results. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28
All our present ills are the seeds of future bliss, and will be followed by a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory in the kingdom of God's dear Son.

When such sublime results shall be realized, we shall perceive that "Affliction does not come from the dust, neither does trouble spring out of the ground." Be submissive. God's design for afflictions is our sanctification, and eventual glorification. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it!" Hebrews 12:11

Afflictions are but blessings in disguise!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Essential Thing In the Christian Life

by J. R. Miller

"No longer do I call you servants; but I have called you friends!" John 15:15

For myself, after all my years of teaching and helping others, and all my experiences as a Christian, my whole creed is summed up into one little sentence, "Christ and I are friends!" No friend in all the world is so near to me as He is. I trust Him, I love Him. I take everything to Him, I lay every burden upon Him. I go to Him for wisdom, for help, for the love I need in my own heart. He is everything to me as Friend.

Christ is my personal Friend. He is my dearest, truest, strongest and best Friend!

Then for myself, my whole duty is summed up in being a friend of Christ's. He says, "You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you." This includes all Scripture commands.

In telling you this, I want to help you to understand that the essential thing in the Christian life is knowing Christ, trusting Him, loving Him, following Him, having Christ for your Friend—and being His friend.

The secret of a beautiful life is living in unbroken fellowship with Christ, under the influence of His presence, and the inspiration of His love and grace.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Half-hearted Christianity

by Horatius Bonar

If you are Christians, be consistent. Be Christians out and out—Christians every hour, in every part. Beware . . .
     of half-hearted discipleship,
     of compromise with evil,
     of conformity to the world,
     of trying to serve two masters,
     of trying to walk in two ways, the narrow and the broad, at once.
It will not do. Half-hearted Christianity will only dishonor God, while it makes you miserable!

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money!" Matthew 6:24

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Galatians 1:4

by William Nicholson, 1862

"He gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age!" Galatians 1:4

The sacrifice of Christ was voluntary—it must therefore have been prompted by infinite love. Redeeming love should be the favorite topic of the Christian's constant meditation.

I. Note His marvelous act: "He gave Himself!"

He came into the world which abhorred Him, disowned Him, and murdered Him!

He gave Himself to all the privations and sorrows of human life.

He gave Himself to obscurity and indigence. He was born in a stable—and had nowhere to lay His head.

He gave Himself to scorn and infamy. He was denounced . . .
     as a glutton,
     as a drunkard,
     as insane,
     as a demoniac,
     as a traitor!
"Scorn has broken My heart and has left Me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none; for comforters, but I found none!" Psalm 69:20

He gave Himself to pain and anguish. "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering!" Isaiah 53:3. Behold His agony . . .
     at Gabbatha,
     at Gethsemane,
     and at Golgotha!

He gave Himself to an ignominious and painful death. "He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed!" Isaiah 53:5

He died the just for the unjust.

II. Note the purpose for which He gave Himself: "For our sins!"

Man is a sinner—he has transgressed the Divine law, and rendered himself accursed. Christ died to save helpless, ruined man.

He gave Himself to deliver us from . . .
     sin's curse, Galatians 3:13,
     sin's defilement, Ephesians 5:25-27; Titus 2:11-14; 1 John 1:9
     sin's dominion, Romans 6:14,
     the effects of sin in this world and in eternity.
The believer now has peace, joy, hope, and triumph.

III. Note the Design of Christ's offering: "That He might deliver us from this present evil world!"

Not totally to remove us out of the world, but to deliver us from its evil practices—from its maxims and philosophies.

To deliver us from the condemnation to which the world will be subjected.

To deliver us from attachment to this fleeting world, "For this is not your resting place, because it is defiled, it is ruined, beyond all remedy!" Micah 2:10

To influence us to look higher, accounting ourselves as "strangers and pilgrims" on earth; declaring plainly that we are "seeking a better country, that is a heavenly one!"

To deliver us when we die, from this poor world's . . .
     sins,
     sorrows,
     trials,
     sinful beings—
and to introduce us to a purer, brighter, happier world than this, where we shall reside forever!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Christian Jihad

The word jihad means "to struggle" or "to strive." A jihad is defined as being "a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty"; "a crusade for a principle or belief." In Islam, jihad is the central doctrine that calls on believers to combat the enemies of their religion. According to the Qur'an and the Hadith, jihad is a duty that may be fulfilled in four ways: by the heart, the tongue, the hand, or the sword. The first way (known in Sufism as the “greater jihad”) involves struggling against evil desires. The ways of the tongue and hand call for verbal defense and right actions. The jihad of the sword involves waging war against enemies of Islam. Believers contend that those who die in combat become martyrs and are guaranteed a place in paradise.

Under the definitions of "to struggle," "to strive," and "a holy war," the Christian wages his own jihad—according to all four ways—and is the only individual who is truly engaged in a true holy war, because "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12).

The Christian is daily engaged in the jihad of the heart: "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately wicked; Who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9). "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). "For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (Rom. 8:13). "Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest" (Eph. 2:3). We struggle against the temptations to sin and strive for holiness and Christ-likeness.

The Christian is daily engaged in the jihad of the tongue and of the hand: "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Eph. 4:29). "So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison" (James 3:5-8). "Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin" (James 4:17). "Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). We struggle and strive to not only say the right things and to do the right things, to have integrity, but we also struggle and strive to defend our faith and expose other faiths for their lies, deceit, and how they keep people in bondage to sin and the devil.

The Christian is daily engaged in the jihad of the sword: "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). The Word of God is the Christian's sword, and it is able to cut through anything because "My word . . . shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it" (Is. 55:11). Remember, our holy war "is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). Our sword is able to combat "the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life" (1 John 2:16) and succeed.

The jihad of the Christian is more noble and holy than the one fought by Islam.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

For Better or Worse

by Michael Whitworth

In the Hebrew text of Ruth, there is a beautiful term used to characterize both the love of God for his people and our love for others. The word is translated differently in various translations; the problem is that there is no one English word that completely translates the ideas behind the term. It appears at key moments in Ruth’s story, characterizing her devotion to Naomi (Ruth 1:8; 3:10) and God’s care for his people (Ruth 1:8). Its usage in Ruth 2:20 is unclear; does it refer to God or Boaz? Perhaps the ambiguity is intentional. The word is hesed, meaning “compassion,” “covenant love,” “kindness,” “lovingkindness,” “mercy,” or “steadfast love.” And though these translations contribute a lot to our understanding of this word, there is so much more to it. The term hesed entails:

EXTRAORDINARY RESPONSIBILITY
I believe that Orpah should not be demonized for returning home, instead of continuing on with Naomi (Ruth 1:14). The reality is that she made the personally responsible decision. However, while her actions were personally responsible, it still remains that she did not live out the principles of hesed. On the other hand, Ruth exemplified responsibility of another sort in her decision to remain with Naomi. In the Psalms, Israel glorified the God of heaven, “Oh, blessed be GOD! He didn’t go off and leave us,” (Psa. 124:6 The Message) ["Blessed be the LORD, Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth" (Ps. 124:6 NASB); "Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth" (Ps. 124:6 ESV). The Message gives a poor and distorted translation of this verse, as it does with every other verse in Scripture.]. In our darkest moments, we can glory in the fact that God will never abandon. He is personally devoted to us for better or worse. To say that his faithfulness to us is extraordinary is, frankly, an understatement. Rather, “Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies,” (Psa. 36:5).

EXTRAORDINARY RISK
Later in the story, Ruth risked public ostracism and physical abuse by gleaning in the fields (Ruth 2:2-3). Concerning the mistreatment that a poor immigrant woman risked by performing manual labor among men 3000 years ago, well… I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. In addition, she had no knowledge of how Boaz would respond to her midnight visit and her display of feminine assertiveness (Ruth 3:6-8). However, Ruth knew that there was much to gain by these actions and therefore took a personal risk for the sake of another. Many people are willing to practice unconditional faithfulness in their relationships, but only as long as it does not cost them anything. Biblical devotion, hesed, demands that we be willing to take great risks. If God was willing to risk his son, what is it that we consider “too great a price”? Perhaps for some of us, we bear our cross by regularly sticking our necks out in order to practice hesed to those in need of it.

EXTRAORDINARY RESPECT
Though she took a great risk in several situations, Ruth was never guilty of presumption as far as we know. She did not glean in places that were not permissible. During her midnight visit, she did not seduce Boaz into a sordid situation. Rather, in all things, Ruth showed remarkable restraint and respect for others. If we desire to be people of hesed, we should be people who respect both people and boundaries. Ours is a Savior who stands at the door and knocks (Rev. 3:20), but he will never beat the door down [This is a false interpretation and application of this verse, as well as a misunderstanding of precisely Who God is and how He works.]. God’s love is freely given, and he expects that love to be reciprocated, but freely so, never obligatory. God respects our free will to choose life over death, a blessing over a curse, the God of heaven over the gods of the world. [This author fails to understand that unless God regenerates us, we will never choose life over death, a blessing over a curse, the true God over false gods. He fails to understand our precise predicament.] Sometimes true love must exercise extraordinary respect, and no one does this better than the man from Galilee who taught us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44), only to submit to the will of an angry mob.

Father, may our lives always reflect, in word and deed, the principles of hesed. May we always reflect your steadfast love. In Jesus’ name.

[Blue text mine.]