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Princípios Bíblicos para a Maturidade Cristã...
Biblical Principles for Christian Maturity
John H. Stoll, Th.M., Ph.D
Copyright 1996, John H. Stoll
Dr. John H. Stoll is Executive Director of A.S.K., Inc., a professional counseling and Bible teaching organization. Over the past 45 years he has been a professor in five Christian Colleges/Seminaries, as both a Theologian and Marriage and Family Therapist. For the past 18 years he has been the Director of a Christian Psychological Clinic in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. A complete resume is available.
Table of Contents
Biblical Principles With Practical Application
with Biblical Truths For PracticalLiving
© Copyright 1996 by John H. Stoll.
Dr. Stoll's book has been updated and republished as "Principles For Growth" published by River City Press, Minneapolis, MN., $19.95 #1-888-234-3559
John H. Stoll
Sun City, AZ. Office
February 22, 1925
Kenneth, Jane, Kevin, Carolyn
First Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN.
Calvary Baptist Church
Conservative Congregational Christian Conference
University of Missouri
University of Notre Dame
Wheaton College Academy
Chairman, Department of Religion
Vice President for Academic Affairs
Calvary Bible College
Chairman, Department of Biblical Studies
Dean, Counselor Training Program
Camp Forest Springs
Board of Directors
Christian Association for Psych. Studies
Executive Director, Marriage & Family Therapist
A Survey of Old Testament Poetry & Prophecy
The Book of Habakkuk
Is the Church's Formula Upside Down?
Biblical Principles for Christian Maturity
Good News Broadcaster
Christian Reader's Digest
Evangelical Theological Society
Christian Association for Psych. Studies
American Association of Pastoral Counselors
HONORS & AWARDS
Who's Who in American Education
Outstanding Educators of America
Who's Who in Religion
Who's Who in the Midwest
1976, 1977, 1992, 1995
© Copyright 1996-2007 by John H. Stoll.
Pearls of Wisdom for Understanding this Book
Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
- Joshua 1:8 (NIV)
Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
- Psalm 1:2,3 (NIV)
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way unto the Lord; trust also in Him, and He will bring it to pass.
- Psalm 37:4,5 (NIV)
The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Holy Spirit is life and peace.
- Romans 8:6 (NIV)
The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.
- Deuteronomy 28:13 (NIV)
Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.
- Ecclesiastes 7:12 (NIV)
© Copyright 1996 by John H. Stoll.
Dr. Stoll's book has been updated and republished as "Principles For Growth" published by River City Press, Minneapolis, MN., $19.95 #1-888-234-3559
Across the pathway and into the life of every person, come people who leave an indelible impression upon that individual. Such was my life, for of the many and varied influences that have molded me, there were four men who touched my life, made an indelible impact upon it, and fashioned my character. What I am today, and for whatever quality of life I experience, I have realized over and over again, that these men have made me what I am, and who I am. They were my foundation for life, and I have constructed my life upon their influence.
The majority of concepts in forming my worldview or philosophy of life came through the modeling of these men. The seminal ideas and constructs in this book, hammered out over forty years of service for the Lord that I have been privileged to serve Him, have grown out of the seeds implanted in me by the examples of Godly living, as well as the precepts of what I learned from them.
Added to this, has been the consistent prodding, teaching, guiding, correcting, and helpful instruction of God's Holy Spirit, and He has taken these four human instruments of His Grace, and together used them to mold me into the person I have become. For all this I shall be eternally grateful, for truly, "The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places". My Lord and Savior not only saved me through the influence of Godly parents, but also used these men as guides and influences in my life.
To the memory of these men to whom I owe so much, I gratefully dedicate this book, for three have passed on to their eternal reward. First of all is my beloved father, Dr. Ralph H. Stoll, who modeled an exemplary Christian life before me, taught me the way of life, and was a kind, gracious Christian gentleman, and an outstanding Bible expositor. Secondly, my eleventh grade Sunday School teacher, Faye Keith, who knew how to handle teenagers in a Christlike way. My Old Testament and Hebrew professor in seminary, Dr. Robert Culver, who gave me a love for the Old Testament and the Hebrew language. Finally the one who fleshed out my understanding of scripture in Theology classes in Seminary, Dr. Alva J. McClain. Without them, from a human perspective, I would never have achieved what I have acquired in education, professionally, or experientially.
When I started this book, I decided to write all the chapters in outline form, duplicated them and taught the contents to the men in my Bible class at the Minneapolis Athletic Club over a three year period. They became my pilot project, and their feedback helped in fleshing out the chapters as they are now written. To these men I owe a debt of gratitude for their spiritual and wise comments, that gave me greater insight to the truths presented in this book. They were of tremendous help.
In II Timothy 2:2, the Apostle Paul, in speaking to his son in the faith, Timothy, stated, "And the things you have heard of me among many witnesses, the same you commit to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also". One of the blessings and joys I have experienced through all these years, is to have been spiritually fed by these men, as well as other great men of faith, and then in turn be able to convey to thousands of my students in college, the blessings and challenges of God's Holy Word. Many of my former students have gone on to serve the Lord, and it rejoices my heart to realize that God's Word is being passed along from generation to generation.
God's revelation to mankind, as found in His word the Bible, is a book devoted to principles for living, illustrated through human relationships, and thus are applicable to us today for our daily guide. The chapters of this book are written from a two fold concept: First to be a guide to understanding the principles, and secondly, to show in a practical way how the principles may be applied to life's situations. So, every chapter is both Biblical and practical. It is with prayerful anticipation that this volume may be used of the Lord to instruct and guide those who read to a fuller life of experience, since Christ said in John 10:10, "I am come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly". The command to the Christian is to, "Grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ" (I Peter 2:2; II Peter 3:18).
John H. Stoll, Th.M., Ph.D.
Executive Director, ASK. Inc.
There is joy in serving Jesus
As I journey on my way,
Joy that fills my heart with praises,
Every hour and every day.
There is joy in serving Jesus,
Joy that triumphs over pain,
Fills my soul with heaven's music,
Till I join the glad refrain.
There is joy in serving Jesus,
As I walk alone with God;
Tis the joy of Christ, my Saviour,
Who the path of suffering trod.
There is joy in serving Jesus,
Joy amid the darkest night,
For I've learned the secret,
And I'm walking in the light.
There is joy, joy, joy in serving Jesus,
Joy that throbs within my heart;
Every moment, ev'ry hour, as I draw upon His power,
There is joy that never shall depart
In Ecclesiastes 12:12, Solomon states, "---of making of many books there is no end". With the plethora of books today, on any given subject, why should there be another one?
When I was trying to decide the research project for my doctoral dissertation at the university, I searched for an idea that would be challenging, as well as fruitful, to use in my ministry. Having been a Bible and Theology professor for over 25 years, and taught thousands of students, I felt that by and large Christians were basically ignorant, not of Bible facts, but of Biblical concepts and principles which was the underlying purpose for which God had revealed Himself through the scriptures. They knew names, dates, places, events, history, geography, etc., but could not fit this information into the larger picture, i.e. God's desire that the Bible be a guide for mature Christian living.
In addition to my classroom teaching, I had been privileged to minister in many churches and various denominations, held Bible conferences in churches and conference facilities, as well as conducting home Bible study classes. All of these resources of information that I had experienced led me to believe that my basic premise was valid. Therefore, I undertook to investigate it in a research project for my dissertation.
My first concern was to find a testing instrument that would evaluate what I wanted to know. Unfortunately, after careful research on a testing device, I found that there was none. I did find Bible knowledge tests, but they tested the things that I already knew that people understood about the Bible. They did not evaluate the concepts behind the facts. So, my first task was to design a Biblical conceptual evaluating instrument to provide me with the information I wished to obtain. It took a year to design and validate my testing instrument. Then I administrated it to over 1300 high school seniors in 33 Christian academies. Basically these students had been raised in a Christian home, attended an evangelical church, and for the most part had gone to Christian schools. I felt that they, if any, should have many of the Biblical concepts for Christian maturity of life. At that point my basic premise stood up.
Since that time, and many years have passed, I have been privileged to direct a Christian counseling clinic, with a Bible teaching element directed toward business people. I have continued to pursue my premise, believing that Christians are basically illiterate of the underlying revelation of God through His word to His children, and the real reason for the Bible. My present ministry along with my teaching career, and my research, has only confirmed what I originally perceived to be a deficiency among God's children.
Once a person has become a Christian, with a personal committal of life to the Lord Jesus Christ, and what He did for us through His death, burial, and resurrection, God's anticipation for His child is spiritual maturity. That is primary and foremost of what God desires in each of us. In I Peter 2:2, it states, "As newborn babes, crave the unadulterated milk of the word, that you may grow thereby." Then in II Peter 3:18 we have what I believe is the primary concept of God for His children, that is to, "Grow in Grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." In both passages it is in the imperative mode in the Greek, which means a command to do it.
Growing in Grace means to become more Christ like in our character, so that we exemplify in our behaviors the fruit of the Spirit, as seen in Galatians 5:22-24. To grow in the knowledge of Christ has two aspects, intellectual knowledge of Him through the Bible, and experiential understanding through the trials and tribulations of life. When all this is put together in one's life, with an openness for the Holy Spirit to apply the basic principles of the Bible to life, then that person truly experiences the fullness of life that God intends all of His children to have. That is why Christ said in John 10:10, "I am come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly."
To further enlighten the reader as to what I believe the Bible refers to as the maturation process of the Christian, let me illustrate by analogy. When one begins to learn a foreign language, he memorizes elements of that language, then he begins to formulate sentences, etc., but when he "crosses over" and begins to think in that language, he enjoys a fullness of understanding never afforded to him before. It opens up a whole new concept of understanding. So likewise, God not only wants us to know the facts of God's Word, but He desires that we know the concepts and principles primarily, so that we can put them all together and think Biblically, as God thinks. This is what is meant by I Cor. 2:14, "But the unregenerate person receives not the things of the Spirit of God - - because they are spiritually discerned". God desires that His children have this discernment in life, not just to know the facts of the Bible, so that we are able to apply these principles to life itself.
This is what this book is all about. Over forty years of teaching and ministering God's word to countless Christians, has impressed upon me the deficiencies of the knowledge of Biblical principles. Therefore, I trust that the chapters of this volume will help provide a conceptual understanding of God's truth, so that those who read it will be able to more clearly see what the revelation of God to us is really all about. When we get to heaven we will no longer need the Bible, for, "we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." (I John 3:2). There will no longer be a "looking through a glass darkly" (I Cor. 13:12), but a fullness of God Himself, in heaven, throughout eternity. No, the Bible is a book for the here and now, to guide us into mature living for today. Yes, there are glimpses of the future, but the fullness of that understanding awaits the revelation of it.
There are many and varied deceptions in the world, and the primary design of Satan against mankind is to keep one from an understanding of a person's separation from God due to sin, and how that separation may be overcome through a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Once a person has made a commitment to Christ, and become a regenerated person (i.e. a child of God), then Satan uses a very subtle deception on the Christian. Since the devil can't take a person's salvation from him, for that is God's gift of eternal life, he tries to keep the Christian from becoming a spiritually mature person, so that he does not develop as God desires, nor is he able to be used of God as an "ambassador" of Him (II Cor. 5:20). The means by which Satan achieves this deception is to fill the Christian's mind with the knowledges and facts of the Bible, thereby subtly causing the Christian to believe he has Biblical understanding, and is coming to maturity, rather than being taught the principles/concepts of Scripture, which are the elements of growth and productivity in the Christian life. I am not saying by this that Bible facts and knowledges are unimportant, I am saying that we have far too long placed an undue emphasis on facts, almost to the exclusion of principles, and been deluded unto believing we are mature Christians through knowing the facts.
The primary emphasis in the Bible is the principles, God given for our spiritual growth to maturity. He conveys these principles to us, couched in illustrations of human beings in the Bible, so that we can comprehend the principles. We have focused on the illustrations (i.e. names, dates, geography, history, etc.) and many times overlooked what God is trying to help us understand about spiritual growth. These facts of the deprivation of spiritual maturity in the majority of Christians, was borne out in my research of Bible knowledge tests, the examination of over a thousand Christians, and my fourty years of teaching Christians Biblical truths. I can honestly say that I believe the majority of Christians today are Biblically illiterate, not in the facts of the Bible, but in the principles and concepts for mature living, that God desires for each of us to have.
In II Peter 3:18, it states, "But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." The "knowledge" that is spoken of here are the principles and concepts for mature Christian growth and development. This is further reinforced in Phil. 3:8,10. When we develop in the likeness of Jesus Christ, then the outliving of God's principles for us will be that our lives will exemplify God's grace, and we will be living examples of the "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22-24). To "glorify" God in our lives means to become more like Him in His moral attributes, and thereby live out His likeness, which helps us personally, as well as our being a better "light" to the world (Matt. 5:16).
It is my fondest desire that those who read the pages of this book, may be open to the Holy Spirit's leading and guiding. Christ said of the Holy Spirit that, "He will guide you into all the truth, -- and He will glorify me" (John 16:13,14). As growing Christians we need both the truth of God's Word, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I liken these two somewhat to a steam locomotive. In order to operate properly it needs both tracks upon which to run, as well as steam in its boiler. So, the Bible is the track of principles to give us guidance, and the Holy Spirit is like the steam to energize, motivate, and give understanding to the principles. In this way the maturity that God desires for every Christian is progressively being fulfilled.
There needs to be a word of caution in reading this book. One of the misconceptions that many Christians have about the Christian life is that God is primarily interested in our performance for Him. This comes from Christ's commission to His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples of all people, as well as the understanding that we are all ambassadors for Him. This is all true, but before we can carry out His command, we need to be instructed and to grow spiritually to Biblical maturity. The divine commission to go should not be so much of an external constraint from other people and the church, as it should be an inner compulsion generated out of a growing maturity that causes one to want to share his faith. The purpose of this book is to assist the Christian in his spiritual growth and journey, so that one will want to share what he is learning out of the resources of knowledge and wisdom he has gained from God's Word.
God has given to every Christian certain distinct gifts and talents, to be used for His service. The Bible and the Holy Spirit are the instruments God uses to develop and hone the gifts. The purpose God has for them, in each person's life, is found in Ephesians 4:12-14, "For the work of maturing of the saints, for the work of ministrations or helps, for the building up of the body of Christ: until we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a mature person, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we be henceforth no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of false doctrine, by the deceitfulness of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive."
It is this author's hope that as one reads this book, with the understanding that its purpose is intended to provide a framework of Biblical principles upon which to grow, that the reader will be open to the Holy Spirit's leading in developing one's talents, so that together, as the body of Christ, we may individually and collectively fulfill God's holy purpose in our lives. Then, both the author and the reader will be fulfilled through the exercise that both accomplish.
All my life long I had panted,
For a draught from some clear spring,
That I hoped would quench the burning,
Of the thirst I felt within.
Hallelujah! I have found Him,
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings,
Through His blood I now am saved.
Feeding on the husks around me,
Till my strength was almost gone,
Longed my soul for something better,
Only still to hunger on.
Poor I was, and sought for riches,
Something that would satisfy,
But the dust I gathered round me,
Only mocked my soul's sad cry.
Well of water, ever springing,
Bread of life so rich and free,
Untold wealth that never faileth,
My Redeemer is to me.
Hallelujah! I have found Him,
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings,
Through His blood I now am saved.
Chapter 1 - A Theology of the Grace of God
There is a need for Christians to think Biblically. By that is meant that one needs to integrate Biblical facts with Biblical principles, so that in discerning God's will for the person, that one is able to correlate together everything that the Bible has to say on that point. Thus the Christian is able to assimilate with understanding what God desires the child of his to know, through instruction in the Word. The result is that the Christian comes to maturity in Biblical understanding, and follows the admonition to, "Grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Maturity in one's spiritual development is the primary goal that God has for all His children. Everything else, e.g. service/ministry, will follow as one comes to maturity. Thinking Biblically is an indication of maturation.
In order for us to properly develop according to God's word, we must begin with the "bottom line" of, who God is and His relationship with us. Therefore, a need to understand a theology of God's grace.
In Romans 3:23 we read, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." God by "rights" could "write" us all off to eternal damnation, and still be a just God. He created mankind sinless, and gave him every opportunity to follow Him. But, Adam/Eve turned from being God centered to becoming self centered, and by that first sin placed all of mankind in sin (Rom.5:12). BUT, "God so loved the world that He gave" (John 3:16), and sent His son Jesus Christ into this world to provide redemption for all from sin, and reconciliation to God (Rom 3:24; 5:1; II Cor. 5:17-19; Titus 3:5-7). This is grace, which means the favor of God upon mankind without any merit on anyone's part, but love pure and simple.
The process of God's grace is seen in Eph. 2:8,9 which states that, "By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God". Then in Titus 3:3-8 we have the most condensed and succinct overview of God's grace that says, "At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another (this is the Christian's past). But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior (this is the Christian's present situation by God's grace), so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life (this is the Christian's future by God's grace). This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone" (This is God's admonition to Holy living in the Christian).
An understanding of the Grace of God begins with John 1:17, which says, "For the law was given by Moses, but Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ". Then in Romans 8:14 it says, "For as many are led by the Spirit of God, they are the children of God". In other words, the law of Moses was given for two reasons, first to provide the children of Israel with God's requirements for holiness so that Israel would know how to measure up to that holiness, and also to show the inability of a sinful people to be able, by their own works, to measure up. So, the law which was intended to be a guide to eternal life, in essence became a barrier to it, since none could measure up (Rom.7:10). The failure to measure up resulted in separation and alienation from God (Rom. 3:19,20). Thus the failure of Israel to live up to the law is what the Old Testament teaching is all about, and the need for the prophetic teaching of the coming of Christ to accomplish for mankind what the law was unable to do.
This is why the contrast is given in John 1:17. The law did not accomplish reconciliation of Israel to God, but the grace of God, coming by Jesus Christ did. Now, all who have made a commitment to God through Jesus Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:2,14-16) are children of God. Christ said in Matthew 5:17, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am come not to destroy, but to fulfill". The law was holy, and just, and good; it was mankind who fell short of what God's holiness required. Therefore, the grace of God, in the person of Jesus Christ, came to fulfill for each of us, what none of us could do, that is, measure up to God's holy requirements. This is God's grace. The child of God has been freed from the penalty of the law (Rom. 8:2).
The problem to present day application of God's grace, is that in some instances the church has placed the Christian back under the law through legalism (i.e. the imposition of church standards of behavior, e.g. "do's and don'ts", which may or may not have a Biblical foundation, and are externally imposed, rather than through internal constraint by the Holy Spirit). See: Gal. 1:6,7; 2:20,21; I Cor. 1:30; Titus 3:3-8; Rom. 8:4; Phil. 3:9.
How then should a Christian live, if freed from the law? The answer to that is one's attitude toward the Biblical principles. It is not how much is one able to live according to the fleshly desires, but how close one can live to the guiding help of the Holy Spirit through the Word. Let me illustrate. Many years ago there was a gentleman who desired to hire a young man to drive his carriage with a team of horses. As each applicant came in he was asked one simple question, "Sir, tell me how close you can drive my team of horses to to the edge of the cliff by the river road without going over". Each young man tried to explain his ability in answer to the question. Finally, one man came in and replied, "Sir, I don't see how close I can drive without going over, I see how far away I can stay". This illustrates what God desires of His children. If we would heed the Word, and discernment of the Holy Spirit, we would not be troubled by the legalism of the church, and thereby walk in the freedom of God's grace. See: Col. 2:20-3:4 NIV.
In order to better understand the difference between law (legalism) and grace, let us look at various contrasts:
1. Demands righteousness from mankind
1. God gives righteousness to all. Rom 3:21;Phil 3:9.
2. Is connected with the Old Testament & works
2. Is connected with Christ & faith. Rom. 10:4-10.
3. Blesses the good works Exod. 19:5.
3. Saves the bad Eph. 2:1-9.
4. Demands that blessings be earned Deut. 28:1-6.
4. Is a free gift. Eph. 2:8; Rom. 4:4,5.
5. Power is by the individual Rom. 8:4
5. Power is through the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5; John 16:13; I Cor. 2:9-14.
6. Is the wrong path of life for the Christian Rom. 7
6. Is the right path of life and victory, with peace & joy for the Christian. Rom. 6; Rom. 8:5.
When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way. While we do His good will,
He abides with us still, & with all who will trust & obey.
Trust & obey, for there's no other way,
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.
But we never can prove the delights of His love,
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, and the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there's no other way,
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.
Chapter 2 - God's Three Essentials
In a point of God's existence, He broke into time and created a world of things, i.e. the heavens, both starry and atmospheric, the earth, and mankind. Genesis 1:26 tells us that God created mankind in His "image and after His likeness", referring not to physical likeness, but according to God's moral character.
In Psalm 8:4-6 it states the threefold purpose for which God created mankind: (1) For fellowship with His creation, v.4; (2) To reflect God's moral character, v.5; and (3) To place mankind as "king" over the rest of creation, v.6. In God's eternal plan this was not only a perfect state, but would be that which would last for eternity. He also told man to fill the earth with his progeny. Into this perfect context Satan came to destroy what God had created, and through deception undermined the creation. This consisted of Satan deceiving Adam/Eve to turn from being God centered to being self centered.
Genesis 3:1-7 recounts for us the story of how Satan through the instrumentality of the serpent appealed to Adam/Eve in three ways: the lust of the flesh, i.e. "the tree was good for food": the lust of the eyes, i.e. "pleasant to the eyes"; and the pride of life, i.e. "desired to make one wise", they ate and thereby separated themselves from God eternally, through their self-centeredness. It was not in the eating, per se, that they sinned, but in their willingness to listen to Satan rather than God.
Into this scene steps God Himself, and in Genesis 3:8-19 we see the confrontation of God with Adam and Eve. In spite of their sin and consequent separation from God, He made a significant pronouncement in Genesis 3:15 that the "seed" or descendants of Adam through their sin would "bruise his heel", meaning that the sin of mankind would cause God's son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross, but in His death/burial/resurrection would ultimately destroy Satan and sin, and provide reconciliation to all mankind.
Now God began the process of carrying out His pronouncement by choosing Abraham to be the father of a great nation, called Israel, through whom would come the "seed of the woman" that would destroy what Satan had caused. In Galatians 4:4, it states that, "when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His son, i.e. Jesus Christ, made of a woman, to redeem them that were under the law, i.e. the law of God's holiness". The first coming of Christ was to destroy the deception of Satan (Hebrews 2:14), so that God would have a basis for reconciling mankind back to Himself, and ultimately fulfill in him the threefold purpose for which He had originally created him. Today, every person who has made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as savior for their sins, has been regenerated, reconciled, and made a child of God spiritually (Ephesians 1:3-14). Now, we await the ultimate fulfillment of our body as well as our spirit (Romans 8:23-25). The Christian today looks forward to the time when God will set up His eternal kingdom, over which we His children will live and reign with Him throughout eternity, and enjoy the ultimate fulfillment of that threefold purpose for which He originally created us. Our knowledge of all this is found in God's revelation to mankind, called the Bible.
The Bible is not a book of all knowledge about everything, though it was written by an infinite, omniscient God. As such, it is a highly selective book, and it contains two basic types of information: (1) ESSENTIAL information that God has revealed to mankind, to help him live for today, and (2) RELATIVE information, which relates to and helps us understand the essentials, but in itself is fragmentary, open ended, and which God has not seen fit to reveal the completeness of it to us today, but may throughout eternity continue to allow us to understand it.
God has given us three essentials in scripture, and of these there is a complete record found. These essentials are for our benefit in order to live in today's world. They are needed now, and will be concluded when Christ takes the Christians to heaven, though our hope of eternity rests upon our understanding and acceptance of them now. They are:
- THE REVELATION OF SIN: that is, to show that all have sinned before God, and have come short of measuring up to what His holiness requires. See: Romans 3:10-12,18,23. The results to all are both physical as well as spiritual death. Romans 5:12, John 3:36, 5:24.
- THE REVELATION OF SALVATION: to show that Christ came into the world to provide salvation from sin, and to give regeneration and reconciliation to all who trust Him, back to God. He did this through His death/burial/resurrection. Romans 5:6-8,5:18,3:24, II Corinthians 5:19. In the Bible, not only is the way of Salvation made plain, but the complete plan is given. The results to the believer are great: Justification, i.e. God's declaration of righteousness; Sanctification, i.e. the holiness of God conferred upon His children; and ultimate Glorification, i.e. the eternal life of God for us, which He guarantees to us now through the indwelling Holy Spirit, and will someday fulfill for us in heaven. Romans 5:1,2; 8:29; Titus 3:7; Ephesians 2:4-7.
- THE REVELATION OF SANCTIFICATION: to show those who are justified by faith and are children of God, how they should live as Christians. Romans 8:3,4; II Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 2:19,20; 5:25; Titus 2:12; I Peter 4:2; Ephesians 5:18 with Colossians 3:16. The Bible provides the guidelines of life, or the track, upon which we should walk, and the Holy Spirit provides the power to enable us to carry out God's principles.
When one evaluates these three essentials of the Bible, it is plain to see that qualitatively they are equal, and must be followed in order. Yet, when evaluated quantitatively, it shows that the first two ways take up very little of the Bible, and the third way consumes the major portion of scripture. It doesn't take God long to show the entrance and destruction of sin, and the need for and way of salvation. but the matter of living a holy life takes a whole lifetime. This is the reason for the history of the children of Israel, the illustrations of life as related in the Bible, and the modeling of Jesus Christ Himself through 33 years of life. All these are to help us pattern our lives after God's will for us.
Part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to guide the child of God into all the truth (John 16:13,14), and to transform him into the moral qualities of God. (II Cor. 3:18). The word "glory", as used in scripture always refers to God's moral qualities, and the Holy Spirit's work is to re characterize Christians so that we reflect those moral and spiritual characteristics of God, as His children. The results are seen in scripture and quantified as the "fruit of the Spirit", of which there are nine elements given. To become more Christ like is not for one to psyche himself up to carry out these elements, rather to allow the Holy Spirit to re characterize him, so that one's behaviors, which show God's character, are those behaviors that reflect the Lord Jesus Christ. In this way we bring glory to Him.
This is the essential purpose of God in the Bible. He has both principles and illustrations to effectively convey His revelation to mankind. The principles are the guidelines for living, and are good constantly, and never change. The illustrations assist us to understand the principles and how to apply them to life's situations. The illustrations were given at a time and location that seem incongruent to modern man, and thereby many not only discount them, but at the same time throw out the principles simultaneously. This is somewhat like "throwing out the baby with the bath water". Though the illustrations may be antiquated, and we are able to replace them with modern illustrations, the principles remain constant. It is the responsibility of the Christian to ferret out the principles, and allow the Holy Spirit to apply them in life to the individual (John 16:13), so that the Christian can "grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).
It is these relative things found in the Bible that are the illustrations, and are also the fragmentary elements that are usually "open ended" in our understanding. Since the Bible is not a book primarily of science, sociology, psychology, history, economics, etc., there are many things that we do not understand of these areas from the Bible. When these fragmentary items are included, they are given to underscore the understanding of the essentials, but, and this is important to accept, are revealed with final truth.
Unfortunately, many have criticized the Bible as being antiquated and not up to date, as far as science is concerned, since the Bible does not give a full dimension in the scientific realm. But that is not the purpose of the Bible. Scientific knowledge is included only in an oblique manner, to help understand the principles, not as an end of knowledge in itself.
However, because the God who wrote the Bible, was also the creator of the universe, and is omniscient, it is reasonable to assume that when He speaks in His word, He speaks with a final truth, that maybe today's science has not caught up with and may someday understand the truth of what God has spoken. The relative or fragmentary knowledges in the Bible are complementary to the essentials, and can be trusted and accepted, even though we may not understand the full import of them. Even the Apostle John noted that if all were written of God's truth that, "even the world could not contain the books that should be written" (John 21:25).
It may be that someday, in eternity, God will see fit to continue to reveal more of Himself and the universe He has created. It seems reasonable that we will not sit in heaven, and become bored with a perfect environment, but that God will continue to teach us. Until then the Bible provides for us, all that we need today, for life and Godliness in this present world. In I Corinthians 13:12 we read, "For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known".
I Corinthians 14:8 reminds us, "For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" The Bible underscores the truth that there is a pattern of authority, that there should be a sense of responsibility, and that there must be a realization of final truth. Therefore, "it is required in stewards that one be found faithful" (I Corinthians 4:2). It was Evan Hopkins that once said, "A Christian is one who is intellectually convinced, morally convicted, and spiritually converted." May this be true of God's children. His word can never fail, and we who are His children and ambassadors for Him, should understand His truth, live by it, and let our light shine before others, that they may see the Lord Jesus Christ in us.
O to be like thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer.
Gladly I'll forfeit all of earth's treasures,
Jesus thy perfect likeness to wear.
O to be like thee, O to be like thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as thou art.
Come in thy sweetness, come in thy fullness,
Stamp thine own image deep on my heart.
to be like thee, while I am pleading,
Pour out thy Spirit, fill with thy love,
Make me a temple, meet for thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and heaven above.
Chapter 3 - As in Adam All Die
Most Christians would accept the following article of faith that says, "We believe that mankind was created in innocence, but fell into sin through Adam, and is now totally unable to redeem himself". Three parts to this statement are: 1) That mankind was created in perfect innocence; 2) Because of Adam all mankind died spiritually, with the consequences of physical death; and 3) that mankind is unable to spiritually redeem himself from either physical or spiritual death.
1. The Origin of Mankind: In Gen. 1:26,27 it states that the human race was brought into existence by the creative act of God. The first woman was potentially created in the man, and brought into individual existence by a special formative act of God. Thus, the entire human race is descended from this original pair by natural generation (Acts 17:26).
2. The Nature of Mankind: In the Genesis account it states that mankind was created in the "image" of God and after His likeness. This image was a natural likeness to God, morally, with personality, and intellect, sensibility and will. As to Adam's moral likeness he had the Holiness of God in him, though he was not confirmed in Holiness (Note: the prohibition of eating of the tree put him on "probation" to see if he would follow God implicitly). Adam also had a mirroring of the meta-physical moral attributes of God. Prior to his eating of the tree he was perfectly holy (i.e. God's moral attributes).
God in His essence has two attributes: 1) Moral and 2) Non-moral. His moral attributes (i.e. His holiness) were perfectly reflected in Adam before he sinned. God's non-moral attributes (i.e. His omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, and omnirighteousness) were attributed to Adam in a limited degree. Mankind has some power, some understanding, a limited body, etc. Only God has the full non-moral attributes. This is what separates God from mankind, and allows Him to be God, and man to be man.
In I Thess. 5:23 it speaks of mankind having a Spirit, Soul, and Body. His Spirit is his closest point of resemblance and contact with God. His being created with a moral side to his nature tells him he ought to do right by God's standards, Rom. 2:14-16. When he sinned his moral nature was marred, not obliterated, though it did separate him from God. He was created as the highest in the scale of created life, for only he had the moral nature of God within him. Even though he became a sinner, he is treated with high dignity and worth, because of who he is by creation, Matt. 12:9-12.
3. The Fall of Mankind: Adam was created with a moral value or nature that was good, Gen. 1:26,31. His testing consisted of two elements, a positive command not to eat of a certain tree (Gen. 2:17), and exposure to temptation through the serpent (Gen. 3:1). The subtle steps of temptation by the serpent (who at this point was Satan's emmissary) are seen in Gen. 3:6: it was a physical allurement, i.e. the lust of the flesh, "good for food"; it was aesthetic, i.e. the lust of the eyes, "pleasant to the eyes"; and it was intellectual, i.e. the pride of life, "make one wise". Satan's methods were: a subtle doubt as to God's goodness, a boldness in denying God's word, and a promise to personal benefit as a result of disobedience.
The fall consisted of two elements: an inward act of disobedience of the will, in deciding for himself, what was good and evil, and an outward act of carrying out the decision he had made. The results of Adam's action are seen in Gen. 3:14-19. It resulted in the curse upon the serpent (v.14,15); a curse upon the woman (v.16), with multiplied conception to make up for the multiplied deaths because of sin, pain in childbirth, and a natural attraction to men, to overcome the thoughts of painful birth; a curse upon the man (v.19); a curse upon the earth (v.17,18); and God's having to begin again, the process of bringing mankind back to Himself through redemption Rom. 5:12, 18-21).
4. Mankind Totally Unable To Redeem Himself: The teaching that mankind is "totally depraved" needs to be clarified. It does not teach: that the unsaved have no disposition to do right, that the unsaved never do anything good, that some men commit every kind of sin; that men are as bad as they can become, and that all men are all making the same progress in sin.
The Bible does teach: that all have sinned and have a sinful nature, which under favorable conditions is capable of the worst of sins, that sin has adversely affected the whole being of mankind, that even when the unsaved do right, it is often for quite selfish motives, and never for the honor of God, that the unsaved are wholly without the love of God, that the sinner always becomes worse, and though they may improve in outward behavior, actually become worse within, and that there is no capacity for recovery.
5. What Is The Nature of Sin? The Bible describes sin in three forms: as an act, as a thought, intent or purpose, and as a state, disposition, or nature. Note: Matt. 15:17-20. In Psalm 32 and 51, David used three words that suggest the course of sin. Sin, in the general or universal sense is anything that is contrary to God's moral nature. Then there are three words subsumed under the general term that are used in the Psalms: 1) Sin - meaning to fall short or to not measure up, like an arrow falling short of its mark. In this sense David did not measure up to what God anticipated of him as king; he failed his subjects. 2) Transgression - which means to go against, like a hunter trespassing on a field. David went against three of God's commandments in that he coveted another man's wife, he committed adultery with her, and then had her husband killed in order to have her to wife. 3) Iniquity - which is the basic nature of the person, out of which comes the acts of sin. David's sinful nature caused him to both fall short as well as transgress.
Sin is thought of in the Bible as an offense against three parties; against the sinner himself (Prov. 8:36), against society (Rom. 5:12), and against God (Ps. 51:4). This is why the Bible states, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory (i.e. moral character) of God", Rom. 3:23.
6. The Beginning of Sin: The Bible is explicit as to where sin originated. There are three areas of beginning: 1) It began in the universe through Satan, who at one time was Lucifer, the arch angel of God (Isa. 14:12-14; Ezek. 28:12-19). 2) It began in the human race through Adam (Rom. 5:12). 3) It begins in the heart of every individual (Mark 7:21,22). Thus, it extends to all the human race (Rom. 3:10,23).
7. The Consequences of Sin: The Bible speaks of sin as the defilement of the body (Ps. 38:3-5), the speech (Ps. 58:3), and that it corrupts the whole nature of mankind, flesh, spirit, mind, and conscience (Rom. 3:10-20). It also brings disorder against nature (Rom. 1:26,27, and in II Tim. 3:3 it says that mankind is, "without natural affection"), and produces moral paralysis (See Eph. 4:18 - "past feeling", and I Tim. 4:2 - "conscience seared with a hot iron"). Then sin brings bondage (Rom. 7:22-24), produces misery (Prov. 14:12,13), guilt (Rom. 3:19), and ultimately death (Rom. 6:23, both spiritual, physical, everlasting).
God has made provision to eradicate any and all of these sins from mankind, through Christ's work on the cross in our behalf. It is each individual's responsibility to acknowledge that they have sinned, and to confess that to God, through accepting Christ's redemption for them, by trusting in Him. There is only one unpardonable sin, of which the Bible speaks, and that is what is called, "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 12:31,32, Mark 3:28,29, Heb. 10:29). This has no reference to swearing, as some would mean, but refers to a conscious refusal of what Christ has done on the cross for each person, and not allowing the Holy Spirit to bring regeneration of spiritual life and reconciliation to God. To refuse the convicting and pardoning work of the Holy Spirit and regeneration, is the only sin in life that God cannot pardon. It would adversely affect God's holiness, without which no one can measure up to God's requirements (Heb. 12:14).
8. Release From Sin and Its Effect: Commitment of one's self to Christ's redemptive work on the cross in His death, burial, and resurrection for the forgiveness of sin, brings release from the bondage of sin as well as from the eternal penalty for sin.(Rom. 6:23; I Cor. 15:3,4; Titus 3:3-8; Rom. 10:9,10; John 3:16,36; John 5:24).
There are many effects of this commitment to the Christian. First and foremost it makes one a new creation in Christ Jesus (II Cor. 5:17). Now, the Christian enjoys the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, who brings a new nature to life, and a whole new outlook on life (Rom. 8:14-16; I Cor. 12:13). This new outlook is summarized in II Tim. 1:7, "For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power (to live constructively), and of love (to live sacrificially), and of a sound mind (to live reasonably)". It also gives one an assured hope for the future (Phil. 1:6), as well as having peace with God (Rom. 5:1), and a maturation in life that brings an inner peace from God (Col. 3:15).
The Christian physician who attended the skeptic Voltaire on his death bed recorded these words: "When I compare the death of a righteous man, which is like the close of a beautiful day, with that of Voltaire, I see the difference between serene weather and a black thunderstorm. It was my lot that this man should die under my hands. Often did I tell him the truth, 'Yes, my friend', he would often tell me, 'You are the only one who has given me good advice. Had I but followed it, I should not be in the horrible condition in which I am now. I have swallowed nothing but smoke. I have intoxicated myself with the incense that turned my head. You can do nothing for me. Send me a mad doctor. Have compassion on me. I am mad.' I cannot think of it without shuddering. As soon as he saw that all the means he had just employed to increase his strength, had just the opposite effect, death was constantly before his eyes. From this moment on, madness took possession of his soul. He expired under the torment of the furies."
What a contrast in this account, to the hymn written by Bernard of Clairvaux, when he penned the words;
Jesus the very thought of thee,
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see,
And in thy presence rest.
O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind thou art,
How good to those who seek.
But what to those who find, ah this.
Nor tongue nor pen can show,
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.
Chapter 4 - The Kingdom of God
As one looks at an overview of the Bible, the significant thread that weaves itself throughout is the kingdom concept. It is the tie that binds every aspect of the Bible together. It is the underlying theme of the Bible, and just like the bones in one's body give structure to the frame, so does the kingdom concept give structure to scripture. The Bible speaks of two kingdoms, the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of heaven. It is imperative that we understand the meaning of each, how they interweave themselves, and how each applies to both Israel and the Church, past, present, and future.
By definition the Kingdom of God is His universal kingdom in which He has always ruled in the universe, is ruling, and will always rule. It is His overall rule from eternity past to eternity future. There never has been a time that God has not ruled. The Kingdom of Heaven is the rule of God in a mediatorial way, i.e. He has and is ruling in the kingdom of mankind through second causes. In other words He mediates His rule over mankind through individuals whom He allows to exercise rulership, and He controls them for His ultimate purposes. The Kingdom of Heaven is subsumed within the overall Kingdom of God. This concept is adequately seen throughout the history of the Bible, as well as in its underlying concepts.
To understand the essence of these two kingdoms, and how they operate in the history of the world, is to be able to understand how the Bible fits together. To not comprehend this concept, is prohibitive of truly being able to understand God's dealings with mankind. The reason for this is that the kingdom concept is ingrained within each one of us, so that whether in the family, in business, in politics, or in any organization, we do not operate in a vacuum, or anarchy, but with some semblance of order and structure. That is part of the fabric of human nature. And, so it is with God, who ordained all of this.
To begin our understanding of these kingdoms, let us first and foremost consider the Kingdom of God. We will call this the Universal Kingdom, since it is all encompassing, universally, as well as from eternity to eternity. The Bible conveys three aspects of this universal kingdom: 1) Psalm 10:16 - The Kingdom of God has always existed in the sense that, "The Lord is King for ever and ever". There has never been a time when God has not ruled in the universe. 2) Psalm 103:19 - states that, "The Lord hath prepared His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom ruleth over all". There is nothing that exists beyond His control, so that it is a universal kingdom. 3) Isa. 10:5-18 - God's universal rule is extended to earth, where He rules through second causes, i.e. rulers whom He has set up, and nature which is under His control. Verse five notes, "Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath". God allowed Assyria to punish Israel for their wickedness, but it was still God who was in control, exercising rulership. These concepts constitute God's universal rule, which permeates all of scripture. As one tries to comprehend an understanding of the Bible, this basic element must constantly be kept in mind.
A larger more complete understanding of the kingdom concept is seen in the Kingdom of Heaven, which occupies more of the text of the Bible, since it relates more directly to mankind, especially the nation of Israel, as well as the church. Therefore, the rest of this chapter will deal with this kingdom, though at the conclusion we shall see how the two kingdoms relate to each other.
The Kingdom of Heaven, by definition, is the rule of God, through a divinely chosen representative who speaks and acts for God, a rule with special reference to the human race, especially seen in Israel, but eventually embraces the whole universe. We shall note the development of this through the Bible under six headings: 1) In Old Testament History, 2) In Old Testament Prophecy, 3) In the teachings of Christ, 4) In the period of the Acts, 5) During the present Christian (Church) era, and 6) During the Coming Age.
In order to understand the relationship between the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of Heaven, it is seen in the Bible that the Kingdom of God is His overall rule from eternity to eternity, whereas the Kingdom of Heaven is not a geographical location, namely "up in the heavens", but rather heavenly rule here on earth among peoples. The preferred rule of Christ to the Jewish nation, which they rejected, was to have been Christ's rule over the Jewish nation, which would have been the heavenly kingdom of Christ, with Him ruling over Israel.
Someday, in eternity, when everything is under the authority of Jesus Christ, then the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God will be one and the same, since the concept of heaven will be everywhere, including this earth. When we look at the kingdom concept in the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, we see that the concept in God's mind was to be His rule over Israel as operative through "second causes", namely the priests and kings. Historically, this was the heavenly kingdom operating on earth. Though this was the way God ordained for Israel, the whole concept failed, because Israel refused to follow God. They broke the covenant that they had accepted at Mt. Sinai (Exod. 19-31).
When Christ came as it says in John 1:11, "He came unto His own (i.e. Israel), but His own received Him not". When Christ began His public ministry He said, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). When you put the two concepts together, what Christ was saying was not that He did not come to bring in the kingdom which the prophets had prophesied, but that He did not come to restore the historical kingdom to Israel. Had He done that, the second administration of the first kingdom would fail for the same reason the first kingdom failed, i.e. the sins of the people of Israel. What Christ preached was repentance from sin, and that He had to go to the cross to care for the sins of the people. Once the sin issue was cared for, then He would bring in the kingdom, and the second time around it would not fail, for Christ would be on the throne of His father, David, and all would be righteous. That did not materialize because Israel rejected what He offered. That is why Christ turned to the Gentiles, and began the "Church".
1. The Kingdom of Heaven in Old Testament History: It started with the call of Abraham in Genesis 12. God told him to leave Ur of the Chaldees and go into a land God had prepared for him, i.e. Palestine. He told Abraham that He would make of him a great nation, that he would have seed as the seashore, that the land would be his forever, and that kings would reign forever over the people. These were unconditional promises God made.
Later on the development of the kingdom came through Moses leading Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and under Joshua into the "Promised Land". During this time God mediated Himself to Israel through the priestly system. When Samuel became the priest of God to Israel, the people demanded of him a king, and this bothered Samuel (I Sam. 8:1-6). God told Samuel to listen to the people, for He said, "They have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them" (I Sam. 8:7). Now we perceive that Israel turned from being a Theocracy (i.e. the rule of God) to a Monarchy (i.e. the rule of man).
However, God still blessed Israel, as long as the kings followed God, and the nation reached its zenith in the rule of David and Solomon. After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam took the throne and because of his youthful brashness caused the kingdom to be divided. The northern part with ten tribes became known as the kingdom of Israel, and the southern part with two tribes became known as the kingdom of Judah. The northern kingdom had a series of wicked kings, and in 721 b.c. went into captivity. The southern kingdom had a number of good and wicked kings interspersed, so it lasted longer, but finally in 586 b.c it too went into captivity to Babylonia.
The close of the kingdoms was symbolized by God's removing of His "Shekinah" glory (i.e. His dwelling glory in Israel). The glory of God had rested upon Israel, but now God removed it, signifying God's blessing and protection of Israel was finished. The nation was susceptible to invasion and captivity (Ezek. 9-11). The kingdom failed for two reasons: 1) A lack of spiritual preparation as seen in the "Golden calf" experience at Mt. Sinai (Exod. 32:1-6), where Israel deviated from Jehovah, even while God was giving Moses the law, which set the pattern of sin in Israel, that bore the fruit of captivity 700 years later, and 2) Imperfection of God's human leaders (e.g. the wicked kings both of Israel and Judah).
As Israel came closer to captivity through continuing sin, the prophets whom God had raised up to speak in His behalf to Israel, and who were ignored or persecuted, spoke of a future coming day when there would be a perfect king over Israel (Ezek. 11:20; Heb. 8:6-11), and subjects who would follow Him (Ezek. 11:19). The close of the historical kingdom was marked by the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 b.c. by Nebucadnezzar of Babylon.
2. The Kingdom of Heaven in Old Testament Prophecy: Arises out of a prophetical/historical setting. The prophet's predictions had a "double reference", meaning that what they said was both historical for that day, as well as futuristic. The prophets spoke of impending judgment if Israel did not repent, as well as a future day when Israel would follow a righteous king. Early prophets spoke mainly to Israel of their day, but as Israel became more wicked, the message of the prophets spoke to a greater degree in the future.
The futuristic aspect began with an obscure reference in Gen. 3:15, where God promised that the "seed of the woman" would crush the serpent's head. This reference was to the ultimate coming of Jesus (the seed of the woman - Gal. 4:4), who in His death/resurrection would crush the power of Satan. The prophetical message became a single gleam in II Sam. 7:16, where the prophet promised to David, "Thy throne shall be established forever". This ultimately would be fulfilled in Jesus, the greater son of David, of whom the angel said at His birth, "He shall reign over the house of Jacob (i.e. Israel) forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end." The future aspect of the kingdom grew as the historical aspect declined.
3. The Kingdom of Heaven in the Teachings of Christ: In Matt. 3:1,2 the Gospels open with the announcement of a kingdom. This kingdom and that prophetical kingdom of the prophets is the same. In Daniel 7:13,14 the future kingdom message is tied in with the "Son of man", which was Jesus' favorite title that He applied to Himself. Further, in Christ's teachings may be found every aspect of the prophetic kingdom. The reason that no formal announcement of Christ's kingdom was made when He began His public ministry, was that the prophets had taught of His coming. Over 330 prophecies in the Old Testament gave evidence to His coming, and all were fulfilled during His lifetime here on earth.
Christ taught that the kingdom was at hand, because the king was present, i.e. Himself. It was announced to Israel alone, when He sent His disciples out to proclaim, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, - - but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, the Kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 10:5-7). The establishment of the kingdom He came to bring, depended upon Israel's acceptance of His message of repentance (Matt. 11:13-15).
He was not caught by surprise at Israel's rejection. He sent His disciples out to take their "Gallup Poll", asking the Jews who they thought was this "Son of man"? When they returned Jesus asked them, and they gave various answers, after which He asked them who they thought He was. Peter replied, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God". To which Christ answered, "Peter, you have well said" (Matt. 16:13-21). At this point Christ introduced two new concepts to His disciples, when it was established that Israel had rejected Jesus as their king: 1) He spoke for the first of the "Church" (i.e. a called out people for His name), and told the disciples that they would be the spreaders of this gospel. 2) He instructed them concerning His death/burial/resurrection. There had been a veiled reference to this by the prophets, but only now was His impending death understood by the disciples. The aspect of the church was unforeseen by the prophets, since their prophecies spoke to Israel accepting the future king (Eph. 3:3-6; Col. 1:24-29; Matt. 13:11).
The Kingdom was not abandoned by Christ, only postponed. The reason being that God had made unconditional promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, etc. concerning a king and kingdom forever, but He also had chosen Israel to be His channel through whom the revelation of God would go out to all the world. Instead of Israel disseminating God's revelation to them, they cloistered it to themselves, and became proud of their heritage and "in" with God, and called the other nations, "Heathen". So, when Christ came they were so self righteous that their sin kept them from acknowledging Jesus as their Messiah. If God's revelation to all mankind was to be disseminated, He had to obtain a new conduit or channel. This was the reason for the church and the commission it has had for the past two thousand years as seen in Matt. 28:19,20. Christ Himself said of the church, that His message this time around, "the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it"(i.e. the church's message). Satan had worked in the national life of Israel to stifle God's revelation through them by their sin of pride, etc. The church would prevail through the indwelling Holy Spirit (I John 4:4).
During Christ's trial before the high priest of Israel, He reaffirmed His kingship (Matt. 26:63-65). He was rejected because Israel would not accept what He had brought, i.e. first a spiritual kingdom "within you", then would have followed the restoration of the historical kingdom, promised in the Old Testament. Israel wanted the political restoration without the repentance of their sins and accepting the spiritual kingdom Christ came to bring in His death/resurrection. Their own sins caused their rejection of Him.
4. The Kingdom of Heaven in the Period of the Acts: The Disciples failed to harmonize Christ's death with their hopes of the restoration of the kingdom (Luke 24:21). The kingdom was not abandoned, only postponed, so that through the church, God's revelation would go out to the world (Acts 1:6-11). After His resurrection the disciples wondered if now He would restore the kingdom, since His mission to bring reconciliation to mankind was accomplished. Christ told them it was not up to them to "know the times or the seasons", but that they were to go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel.
As the book of Acts records the spreading of the Gospel through the Apostles (i.e. "sent ones"), the "signs" that God gave them to affirm their message failed to convince the Jews, for the problem was not intellectual, but spiritual (II Cor. 3:13-15). The veil of sin was upon their heart.
The final rejection of Christ, both as Messiah and king is witnessed in Acts 28:17-31, where the Apostle Paul, himself a believing Jew, under house arrest in Rome, called the Jewish authorities to him, "to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God - - and some believed, and some believed not".
After they had departed, Paul said, "Be it known therefore unto you, that salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles (i.e. nations), and they will hear it". The account tells us that Paul proclaimed the Gospel to any and all who would hear it. He recognized that His own Jewish people had spiritual blindness to the Messiahship and kingship of Jesus Christ. The mantle of revelation had passed to the church, and it was their responsibility to disseminate God's revelation to the world.
5. The Kingdom of Heaven During the Present Christian Era: The kingdom exists today, in the sense that Christ is preparing the people who will spiritually inherit the kingdom that will come. In Col. 1:13 and Gal. 3:26-29 we see that regeneration of heart in the life of the believer translates one into the kingdom of His dear Son. Today, that kingdom exists spiritually in the life of the Christian. Someday, the reality will appear, when Christ returns to set up the kingdom.
Christ set forth the aspects of the kingdom in parables, or analogies, which refer to the "Mysteries" of the Kingdom. In Col. 1:24-28 and Eph. 3:1-7, it is seen that the mysteries were not something mysterious, as we may think, but mean that these elements were divinely hidden from past ages and peoples, but now are revealed to the Christian, through the discernment of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The parables/analogies are to help the Christian, who lives in the time/space world, understand the "other worldliness" of what heaven will be like. An analogy makes a parallel of a "known" with the "unknown", so that the meaning of the unknown can be grasped.
Today, there is seen a parallel growth of righteousness and evil in the world. And though it may seem that "righteousness is on the scaffold, and wrong is on the throne", that is not the way it will always be. God is sovereign, and His program is on track, for He is Sovereign, "His kingdom rules over all (Ps. 103:19). Someday the separation will come (Matt. 25:31-46). The righteous will prevail, and the unrighteous judged, when Christ returns.
6. The Kingdom of Heaven During the Coming Age: The age to come will be ushered in by the authority and power of Christ. God's silence will be broken by the "Trump of God", the Rapture, the Tribulation, and the personal presence of the King, Jesus Christ (Rev. 11:15-17; Rev. 19:25,28).
The kingdom to the Jews will be ushered in. This will be God's fulfillment of His unconditional promises to Abraham, and reiterated to David, Solomon, etc. The Old Testament Prophets spoke extensively of it. (Rev. 20:1-6). After the thousand years and the judgment of Satan, the Kingdom of Heaven will merge with the Kingdom of God, and God will be all in all. Heaven is not a geographical location, but an existence with God, regardless of location. So, heaven will be "up there", earth will be heaven, the universe will be heaven.
In I Cor. 15:24-28 we see that Christ will deliver up the Kingdom of Heaven, over which He rules, to God the Father, that "God may be all in all". Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be subsumed within the Kingdom of God, who has ruled from all eternity past, to all eternity future. What God envisioned for mankind when He created him and placed him in the garden of Eden, will become a reality forever. God and mankind will have eternal fellowship, and mankind will be the threefold fulfillment God intended him to have; 1) Fellowship with God eternally, 2) A perfect reflection of God's moral attributes, and 3) King over God's creation (Ps. 8:4-6).
Revelation 22:3-5 gives us a beautiful picture of eternity that we shall enjoy with Christ. There will be no more curse, and there will no night there, "And they need no candle, neither light of the SUN, for the SON giveth them light; and they shall reign for ever and ever". The eternal Son of God will be our light, and we shall reign with Him eternally.
Chapter 5 - God's Times and Methods of Revelation
In order for one to understand God's overall relationship to mankind, it is imperative to take a telescopic overview of His revelation to the human race. God's understanding of mankind deals with three classes of individuals: The peoples of the world, Israel as God's chosen people, and the Church(i.e. those who have acknowledged Him as Lord and Savior of their lives). The Old Testament deals primarily with God's relationship to His people, Israel. The New Testament deals basically with the Church, which is His body of believers through Jesus Christ. The world is under the ultimate judgment of God, though He is, "Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).
There is a well defined pathway to understand what the Prophets told to Israel and the Church. God has a purpose in history, as well as a purpose for mankind on the earth. In His sovereignty He is seeing to it that His purpose is being carried out (Isa. 46:9-13; Ps. 33:11). This purpose is seen in Psalm 8:4-6, and relates to the creation of mankind in three ways: 1) God created the human race for fellowship with Him (v.4); 2) As a reflection of God's moral qualities or attributes (v.5 - this is the "image" of God reflected); and 3) To place mankind, as king, over all the creation (v.6).
The entrance of sin through Adam/Eve temporarily thwarted the fulfillment of these three purposes. But, since God's purposes are eternal, He outlined the coming of the "Seed of the woman", who would undo what Satan had seduced mankind into sin (Gen. 3:15; Gal. 4:4,5). In Heb. 2:5-9 it states that someday God will restore mankind to that position which Adam had before sin entered, and this will be the eternal and ultimate fulfillment of these three original purposes. God guarantees this through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (I Cor. 15:1- 58).
There are three distinct periods of revelation from God to mankind, as seen in the Bible: 1) From Adam to Moses, 2) From Moses to Christ, and 3) From Christ to the end. We shall consider each, the importance of these epochs, and the impact on mankind.
1) God's Revelation From Adam to Moses: Until Adam/Eve sinned, God and Adam had total communication between them, and God continuously revealed Himself to Adam, who comprehended all that God taught him. It was all perfect and eternal. After Adam/Eve sinned, they hid themselves from God (Gen. 3:8), and realized they were morally naked, because a barrier came between them and God. Now the stakes had changed, and no longer did Adam know God by direct revelation. Consequently, God instituted a new order of communication with mankind because of his sin.
The first revelation in the new order came in Gen. 3:15-19 where God confronted Adam/Eve with a pronouncement that would affect all mankind until He concluded all things in judgment, sometime in the distant future. It was a reference to the immediate judgment for sin, that is, they would experience physical and spiritual death as a consequence, but also that God would provide eternal restoration through one whom He called, "The seed of the woman", whom we understand because of further revelation to be the Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 4:4). This promise was fulfilled in Christ's first advent (John 3:16; Heb. 2:5-9). He came to undo what Satan had accomplished through deception. This is the basis upon which God will ultimately fulfill in regenerated mankind throughout eternity, the threefold purpose He had in creation.
The next revelation from God came through Enoch (Jude 14,15), who prophesied before the flood that God would destroy mankind because of his sin, which came at the time of the flood, and Jude carries this over to the end of all things, when God will ultimately destroy all sin. Then came Noah, who survived the destruction of the flood, because of his righteousness before God, and through him the earth was repopulated. These revelations in history are to show by analogy, that situations in the world today are quite similar to those in Enoch/Noah's day, to the effect that God will someday destroy the world, not by a flood of water, but by the fire of His judgment.
Just as in the days of Noah, there were eight righteous people who escaped, so God has His remnant today who will escape the coming judgment. Furthermore, as God raised up a righteous standard prior to the flood, so today God has His people who are standing for Him, even in the declension that is engulfing mankind, which will bring God's final judgment (II Peter 2:5; 3:1-14).
Many years after the flood, God revealed Himself to Abraham concerning a nation through him, that God would call His people, i.e. Israel. This revelation that God would make of Abraham a mighty nation, consisted of a number of things. He made unconditional promises of earthly seed (Gen. 13:16) without number, a land that God would give his people forever (i.e. the land of Palestine) as a lasting possession (Gen. 13:14,15), and kings over the people/land (Gen. 35:11,12). The history of the Old Testament is a record of how all this came to pass. It had its greatest fulfillment through Moses/Joshua and entrance into the land of promise (Palestine).
2) God's Revelation From Moses To Christ: As God's first and greatest prophet, Moses enjoyed a personal relationship with God, and was the instrument God employed to reveal Himself to Israel. In this capacity, Moses spoke in behalf of God to meet the needs of His people, as well as to reveal future elements that would ultimately affect Israel forever. The revelation to Moses consisted of three things.
First, God used Moses as a type or figure of the future coming of the Son of God as a greater prophet. In Deut. 18:15-18, Moses speaks to this future coming of a "Prophet - like unto me; unto Him you shall listen", which was a veiled reference to the ultimate coming of Jesus Christ. The New Testament confirmation of this is seen in Acts 3:22; 7:37 where both Peter and Stephen quote from Deuteronomy and ascribe the prophecy to Jesus Christ. It is also significant to note the reference to Jesus Christ as Prophet in Heb. 1:1,2 and II Cor. 4:6. So, just as Moses was a Prophet of God to Israel, and a type of Christ, so Jesus Christ as God's last and final Prophet is to mankind today, heralding a message of repentance from sin, and acceptance of Him as an escape from the wrath to come (I Thess. 5:9).
Second, Moses predicted the history of Israel, both the blessings and the cursings (Note: Deut. 28-30, which has been largely fulfilled). The historical record of the nation of Israel, both through Biblical sources, as well as through secular history, is an account of that which Moses predicted.
Third, Moses predicted the return of the Lord to and for His people Israel, their restoration to the promised land, and the eternal blessings they would enjoy (Deut. 30: 1-10). These were literal promises, but always predicated upon God's redemptive work of Jesus Christ. There were other Prophets that God raised up throughout the history of Israel, who spoke in behalf of God to the nation. The earlier Prophets spoke to the Israelites of repentance from their sins, and the consequences of judgment. The later Prophets (i.e. those who came at the time of exile and afterwards) spoke more of a coming king, who would care for the sins of Israel, and set up a kingdom that would not be destroyed.(For further understanding see Chapter 4 - The Kingdom of God & The Kingdom of Heaven).
The problem of the people of Israel was not unlike mankind today, they wanted peace, but were not willing to live righteously according to God's standard to obtain it (Hosea 5:15; 6:1,2 with Matt. 23:37-39). Zechariah put his finger on the problem (6:12,12; 8:8) when he pointed out that there would never be real peace on the earth, until the righteous one (i.e. Christ) as the Prince of Peace would come to reign. When there is righteousness then there will be peace. Thus we come to the end of Old Testament prophecy and turn to the New Testament, as God's revelation concerning His Son, Jesus Christ.
3) God's Revelation From Christ to the End: In Galatians 4:4 we read that Jesus Christ came when it was the "fullness" of God's timing. Since God does not operate out of a time/space world as mankind does, the writer's of the Bible utilizes time/space world language, so that we are able to understand God's revelation within the framework of our comprehension. God sent Jesus Christ into the world according to His plan for mankind. Christ came, "made of a woman" to fulfill God's promise in Gen. 3:15 that the "seed of the woman" would crush Satan's head, and He came to "redeem them that were under the law" (v.5), a fulfillment of God's promise of the Messiah, as revealed by the Prophets.
Thus, the New Testament speaks of three classes of people: The Jews, the Gentiles, and the Church of God (I Cor. 10:32). God's chosen people in the Old Testament were the Jews (Israel); then when Christ came He instituted a new concept of the "Church", as seen in Matt. 16:18 (For more detailed understanding of the church see the chapter on the Kingdom of God). The "Gentiles" would be the unregenerate peoples of the world.
In the Old Testament God spoke to Israel through the Prophets (Heb. 1:1), but when Christ came, God spoke through His Son (Heb. 1:2), and has continued that message in the Bible, as applied to the Christian through the Holy Spirit (See: John 16:7-15).
When Christ came, as God's final and last Prophet to mankind, He came first unto His own people, the Jews (John 1:11), with a proclamation of the Kingdom (Matt. 10:5-7), but they rejected Him as their Messiah/King. Therefore, He turned aside to proclaim a new concept for people, called the Church (Matt. 16:17-21). Because Israel was no longer God's channel through whom His revelation would go out to the world, the new channel was the Church, by whom God would evangelize the world. The commission to the church is given in Matt. 28:19,20. For the past two thousand years God has seen fit to use the Church as His instrument, along with the Bible and the Holy Spirit, to proclaim His message of love, grace, and redemption to all the world.
After Christ's ascension, with His charge to the Disciples (followers), whom He recommissioned as Apostles (sent ones) as seen in Acts 1:8, God revealed His will through the Apostles to the Church, who were empowered by the Holy Spirit. When they carried the Gospel message of Salvation from sin, the Holy Spirit regenerated all who believed, and indwelt all believers (i.e. Spirit Baptism - I Cor. 12:13). This was in fulfillment of the teaching of Christ to the Disciples in His public ministry (John 14:26; 16:13-15).
Today, God is in the process of gathering out of the peoples of the world, a people for His name, i.e. Christians - followers of Christ (Acts 15:14). When this task is completed, Christ will return to gather His Church (i.e. all Christians) to Himself in Heaven (I Thess. 4:13- 18).
After Christ's return the Anti-christ will be revealed, and the Tribulation will begin, which will last for seven years, followed by Christ's return to earth to put down Satan and the Anti-christ (i.e. Armageddon), and His setting up of the Kingdom for Israel. This kingdom, which will last for a thousand years (Millenium), will be God's fulfillment of His unconditional promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and all Israel(Isa. 9:6,7; Luke 1:32,33). This will be the kingdom offered to Israel when Christ came the first time, but postponed by Him, because Israel refused to acknowledge Him as the Messiah, as prophesied by the Old Testament Prophets.
The eternal conclusion of God's original purpose for mankind through the creation (Ps. 8:4-6), will become a reality for both believing Israel and the Church, and each will take their rightful place in God's eternal kingdom (Rev. 21:12,14; I Cor. 15:20-28).
It may be at morn, when the day is awaking,
When sunlight through darkness & shadow is breaking,
That Jesus will come in the fullness of glory,
To receive from the world His own.
O, Lord Jesus how long, how long, ere we shout the glad song
Christ returneth, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Amen, Hallelujah, Amen.
O joy, O delight, should we go without dying,
No sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying,
Caught up through the clouds with our Lord into glory,
When Jesus receives His own.
O, Lord Jesus how long, how long, ere we shout the glad song
Christ returneth, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Amen, Hallelujah, Amen.
Chapter 6 - The Sovereignty of God
Even though Christians place their trust in a sovereign God, there is a tendency, when things in the world look confused, to wonder, at times, if God really is in control. Granted, we believe that He created and sustains the world, but is He really in control over every little thing, as well as the nations of the world? Does He really number the hairs of our head, and furthermore does care, even when we dismiss our fallen hairs so casually?
If we are to trust Him, not only for our Christian life, but for caring for us on a daily basis, and certainly for our eternal future, it is imperative that we understand what is meant by, and how the sovereignty of God is applied to all our questions. Therefore, we need to start with a definition of the sovereignty of God. By that is meant that God is the creator of all things visible and invisible; that He is everlasting sustainer of all things created; that He is the owner of all, and therefore has an absolute right to rule over all, which He does in exercising this authority in the universe. See: Matt. 20:15; Rom. 9:20,21; Eph. 1:11. This sovereignty is not based on any capriciousness or whimsicality of God, but is the sovereignty of wisdom, holiness, and love. Scripture abundantly teaches that God is sovereign in all the universe. See: I Chron. 29:11; Ps. 115:3; Isa. 45:9; Ezek. 18:4; Dan. 4:35; I Tim. 6:15; Rev. 4:11. Our study of God's sovereignty will be exercised under two aspects: Preservation and Providence.
When one thinks of the word preservation, we believe that it has to do with permanently upholding, and controlling something to keep it for the future. The Biblical understanding of God's preservation is that God, by a continuous agency, maintains in existence, all the things which He has made, together with all their properties and powers. Preservation is distinguished from creation, in that creation had a beginning, and in itself is not self existent nor self-sustaining. God has established an order of natural forces, which we may call the laws of nature, and by which He preserves, sustains, and continuously motivates things through these laws, in the universe. See: Neh. 9:6; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3; Acts 17:28; Ps. 37:28; John 10:28.
When we study scripture we see that God's will is not the only force in the universe (e.g. "Mother nature"), but that God concurs in all the operations, both of matter and mind (I Cor. 12:6; Acts 17:28). He has given mankind a will of his own, which he has used in rebellion against God, and God has allowed him to act in accordance with his own selfishness (Jer. 44:4; James 1:13,14). This rebellion of man against God resulted in separation from God, and this is the reason why God programmed Jesus Christ to come into the world of mankind (i.e. the time/space world), to reveal God and His purpose of reconciliation back to God. The basis of the reconciliation came through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; the application of that event to the separated person comes through the individual making a willful acceptance of Jesus Christ. Though God is sovereign over all, He has given to mankind a will of his own, which God cannot override, but has made provision for all to return to the creator, and this comes out of a person's willingness to submit to God's program through Jesus Christ. Thus we see a balance, in human life, between the sovereignty of God and the free will of mankind.
The second aspect of God's sovereignty refers to His divine providence. By that is meant that God has not only created the universe, and has preserved it, but that He also exercises sovereign control. This is what is called providence, in that it is the continuous activity of God whereby he makes all the events of the physical, mental, and moral phenomena to work out His purposes, and that is nothing short of His original design in creation. It is true that God has allowed evil to enter the universe, but by the same token, God does not allow it to thwart His overall purpose.
There are four main areas of existence in the universe over which God maintains sovereign control. The first is over the physical universe. See: Ps. 103:19; Ps. 104:14; Matt. 5:46; Acts 14:17. The second is over the animal kingdom. See: Job 12:10; Ps. 147:9; Matt. 6:26; Matt. 10:29. Thirdly, God is sovereign over the nations of the world. See: Job 12:23; Ps. 22:28; Ps. 75:6,7; Acts 17:26; Rom. 13:1. Finally, He exercises control over all individuals in the following ways: a) Over mankind's birth and lot in life. See: Jer. 1:5; Gal. 1:15,16; b) Over successes and failures of individuals. See: Ps. 75:6,7; Prov. 21:1; c) Over even insignificant things in life to us (e.g. hairs of our head, and sparrows that fall). See: Prov. 16:33; Matt. 10:30; d) Over the needs of God's children, the Christians. See: Rom. 8:28; Phil. 4:19; and finally, e) over the destinies of both Christians and Non-Christians. See: Ps. 73:24; Ps. 37:23,24; Ps. 11:6.
God has four distinct ends toward which His providence is motivated.. These are primarily directed toward the eternal welfare of mankind, which He created for fellowship with him, throughout eternity, and for which all creation was made. First, God has an eternal view toward the happiness of mankind. See: Acts 14:17; Rom. 2:4; Ps. 84:11; John 10:10; Rom. 8:28. Then, God's providence has in view the mental and moral development of the human race. In the Old Testament, the Levitical priestly system was ordained preparatory to the coming of Christ. All the types and figures were symbolized toward that end. Along with that came the moral and ethical concepts of Christianity, as illustrated and exemplified in the moral law of Moses.
When Christ came into the world, He provided for spiritual re birth and subsequent spiritual maturity of life in the individual, which has resulted in the re-characterization of life and the fruit of the spirit.
The third end toward which God's providence is directed is with a view to the salvation of all mankind. In II Peter 3:9 it says, "The Lord is - -not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." In I Timothy 2:4 it points out that God, "will have all mankind to be saved." God never created any person to go to hell, but that everyone would be reconciled to Him, so that together they may have fellowship throughout eternity. It is totally inconsistent with God's attributes to ever create anyone and destine that person to eternal damnation. However, because God has given to each a free will, mankind has separated himself from God, and thereby incurred the wrath of God, because God's holiness cannot countenance sin. This is why God had to send Jesus Christ to die in man's stead, so that by one trusting Christ's work on the cross, God's holiness could remain unsullied, and at the same time He extend His love and grace in redemption to any who would believe. See: Romans 3:21-26; Exod. 19:5,6; Titus 2:14; I Peter 2:9; Eph. 3:9,10;5:25-27.
But, some may ask, what about the person who has never had the opportunity to hear and accept the redemption in Christ, that God has provided for the whole world. Will that person go to hell? If God's redemption has paid for the sins of the whole world, and this person has never heard, why should he be eternally judged? To answer these questions from a Biblical perspective, one must always begin with who God is. The Bible tells us that the primary attribute of God is His holiness, in which He is totally set apart from anything that is contrary to His attributes. Thus His holiness.
One of God's attributes is His omniscience, that is, there is nothing that God doesn't know. He knows the innermost thoughts of every individual. If Christ died for the sins of the world, and God is not willing that any should perish (II Peter 3:9), and God knows the heart of every person, I am convinced that God in His omnipotence would see to it that any person whom His omniscience tells Him would accept if given an opportunity, that God will provide that opportunity.
An excellent illustration of this is seen in the life of David Livingston. As a young lad living in England, he desired to become a sailor. He hired himself out to a sea captain going to India. The ship on which he was sailing was caught in a storm around the horn of Africa, and Livingston was cast ashore. Some years later Stanley came from England hunting Livingston, and found him in the heart of Africa, evangelizing many natives of that continent. It is easy to realize that God knew that there were people at that time, and in that location, that given the message of salvation would accept, and that He put it in the heart of Livingston to adventure out to sea; that God caused the storm that wrecked the ship, and saved Livingston, so that God's word might get to them at that time.
If we accept God's omniscience and His omnipotence, then we must also realize that when mankind stands before God in judgment, there will never be anyone standing there sentenced to eternal judgment, that will be able to say that he never heard the message of salvation, and had he done so , he would have accepted. No, God is seeing to it that anyone whom He knows will accept, if they hear, that God will open the door to their understanding. Many more hear than accept, because God has given us a will of our own to accept or reject, but no one will be judged who has never heard, but would have accepted had they heard. God is sovereign, and He rules over all, to the intent that He never created anyone to be sent to eternal judgment, but that all should come to repentance (I Tim. 2:4; 4:10).
Finally, the primary end of God's government over His creation, is for His own glory (i.e. His moral attributes). He uses a variety of means, to achieve that end. 1) His Word. See: Josh. 1:8; Isa. 8:20; Col. 3:16. 2) His appeal to mankind's reason. See: Isa. 1:18: Acts 6:2. 3) He also uses persuasion. See: II. Cor. 5:20; Jer. 44:4. 4) His use of checks and restraints. See: Acts 16:6-8. 5) His use of outward circumstances. See: I Cor. 16:9; Gal. 4:20. 6) God inclines mankind's heart in one direction or another. See: Ps. 119:36; Prov. 21:1; II Cor. 8:16. 7) Sometimes He guides by dreams and visions. See: Matt. 2:13,19,20; Acts. 16:9,10. In God's overseeing of the world and mankind, He utilizes many and varied elements to ultimately direct everything after the counsel of His own will, for His honor and the ultimate good of all mankind. It is difficult for us, at times, to understand God's program, but as the Apostle Paul states in I Cor. 13:12, "Now we see through a glass darkly", and it is for us just to trust God's overall good. We only see today, He sees the whole of eternity.
It is important for us to realize and understand the necessary balance between the sovereignty of God, and the free will of mankind. In God's creation part of the "image" of God that He infused into us was "will". Originally, Adam exercised his will perfectly in following God. But, Satan deceived Adam/Eve into turning from being God centered to being self centered, which was the original sin. The sin of Adam has translated itself to every individual (Rom. 5:12), so that we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). God's sovereignty is still intact, but now He has to work His sovereign will, with needing to take into consideration mankind's self will that is opposed to God's will. This constant conflict throughout the ages has caused the problems seen in the world, and also has kept mankind from seeing clearly, and from submitting his will to that of God's sovereignty.
Some may reflect upon this understanding to then wonder why the Christian needs to pray, if God is sovereign, and in spite of mankind's self will, God's overall will is being worked out in life? Prayer is not for God's benefit, since He is sovereign, and He knows what we will pray for even before we pray; it is for our benefit, as prayer keeps us sensitive to God Himself, it helps us to unload on Him, and it is our way of communicating with God as His children. God's Word is His communication with us, and prayer is our response to Him. This completes the circuit between a loving heavenly Father and us His children, whom He loves. Note: James 4:2,13-15,16
A sovereign God who designed and created the universe and all that is in it, did so for the good and blessing of each individual, created in His likeness and for fellowship with Him. Because of this, God gave to each of us our will, so that we would respond to Him out of our own volition, not because we had to out of a lack of another option. God did not want a robot or a puppet who would follow Him, but one who would do so out of love. The deception of Satan through mankind, with the consequent separation from God, only incited God to pronounce the decree that He would send His Son, Jesus Christ, who would provide reconciliation back to God, through His death/resurrection, and by our receiving what He provided for us in love. Our will, which we act upon freely, projects itself in accepting the provision that was made. God's sovereignty has made this all possible. Heb. 2:9-18; Titus 3:3-7.
In loving kindness Jesus came,
My soul in mercy to reclaim,
And from the depths of sin & shame,
Through grace He lifted me.
From sinking sand He lifted me,
With tender hands He lifted me;
From shades of night, to plains of light,
O, Praise His name, He lifted me.
He called long before I heard,
Before my sinful heart was stirred,
But when I took Him at His word,
Forgiven He lifted me.
Now on a higher plane I dwell,
And with my soul I know 'tis well;
Yet how or why I cannot tell,
He should have lifted me.
From sinking sand, He lifted me,
With tender hands He lifted me;
From shades of night, to plains of light,
O, Praise His name, He lifted me.
Chapter 7 - The Conflict Through the Ages
In Genesis 3:15 there is the first prophetic notice in scripture of a divine major announcement. It signaled the commencement of an age long unceasing conflict between God and Satan, with mankind in between. This is a declaration of war between God and that old serpent, Satan, as Rev. 12:9 states. The Bible provides us with a picture of both sides in this ongoing conflict. It is important to understand each side, so that we, as Christians, might comprehend the "wrestling" that goes on as Eph. 6:12 points out, which is not in the time/space world of mankind, but is carried on in the spiritual (i.e. metaphysical) world, between God and Satan, and how it impacts mankind.
God's side of the conflict has four basic truths. The foundation of these elements are found in Gen. 3:15. First, in the context of Gen. 3:14-19, we note the word spoken by God resulted in a curse upon the man, the woman, the ground, and Satan (the serpent was the embodiment & representative of Satan at this point). This was a pronouncement by God, not a question. It must be remembered that though Satan has supernatural power, God is omnipotent. This curse has remained through the history of mankind to today.
Second, all God's goodness to Adam/Eve did not prevent them from being beguiled by and yielding to the serpent. What he presented was very attractive, and he won a victory over God at this point. He spoiled God's creation, he alienated the affection of mankind toward God, and he brought mankind under his spell. Though Satan won a victory here, there is no note of despair in God's speech.
Third, from this time on there would be two groups of people: 1) Satan and his seed, and 2) the woman and her seed. The word "enemy" in v.15 means a mutual state of hostility, a continual struggle between an evil supernatural power and struggling mankind. This is seen in John 10:10 and I Peter 5:8.
Fourth, in this conflict both sides would suffer. Satan would ultimately bruise the heel of the seed of the woman (i.e. Christ's death for the sins of the world - Heb. 2:9), and the seed of the woman (i.e. Christ - Gal. 4:4) would crush Satan's head, in that Christ's resurrection would forever destroy Satan's power (Heb. 2:14; I John 3:8). The seed of the woman expressed by the pronoun, "He" (Gen. 3:15), would terminate in a single individual, who would be the Lord Jesus Christ.
From God's point of view, we turn now to Satan's side of the picture. In John 8:44,45, the Lord Jesus Christ pointed out Satan's two basic ways of fighting. In the context of John 8 we have the so called Pharisaical truth squad that hounded Jesus wherever He went, to set the record straight from their perspective. In v.19 they wondered aloud if He knew who His father was (some versions use a capital "F", meaning God the Father, but it should be a lower case letter, since the Pharisees weren't referring to God, but questioning Jesus' legitimacy); then in v. 41 they accused Him of being born of fornication; and finally in v. 48 they accused Him of being a half-breed (Samaritans were the intermingling of Nebucadnezzar's colonists and the poor Jews he left in Palestine, when he depopulated the land in 586 B.C. They were still in existence in Jesus' day).
In v.44, Jesus turned on the Pharisees and said, "You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him". In this judgment, Christ put his finger on Satan's two basic ways of fighting: 1) Destruction - from the beginning of Old Testament history to the cross, Satan trafficked primarily in destruction and murder. 2) Deception - from the resurrection to the end of the age, he has used primarily deception. This is not to say that he never used deception before the resurrection, nor that he never uses destruction in this present age. But, if one examines the Old Testament and the New, it is easily seen just how Satan has operated, as Jesus pointed out.
After the primary deception of Adam/Eve, Satan caused the first murder; Cain killed his brother Abel. Later Satan threatened to kill Joseph, through his brothers, and ultimately annihilate the people of Israel in Egypt, by the edict of the Pharaoh, who wanted to kill all male Hebrew babies. When Israel became a nation he used Saul to try to kill David, and later two wicked queens, Athaliah and Jezebel, to destroy the royal line from David to Jesus Christ. When the Jews were in exile, he tried to use the edict of Haman in Esther's day to kill all the Jews.
Having failed to destroy God's chosen people, Satan used all his evil schemes to try and kill Jesus, Himself. At His birth, Satan got Herod to make a decree that all Hebrew children under two years of age should be destroyed. Herod even used the wise men to try to discover where the Christ child was, but God intervened and told them to go home another way, and then told Joseph to take Mary and the baby into Egypt until Herod was dead. One can easily see the conflict between God and Satan, over the person of Jesus, and how the world of the spirit impacted the world of time/space. This is the import of Eph. 6:12.
During the public ministry of Jesus, Satan tempted Him three times (Luke 4:1-13); he tried to get many groups to kill Jesus (John 5:18), but the record notes that He "passed through their midst, because His time was not yet". Satan never killed Jesus; He lay down His own life at the judicious time according to God's plan (John 10:18).
Finally, when Jesus was crucified, Satan used all his evil schemes and power to try and keep Christ in the grave. He placed a huge stone to seal it; he ordered a legion of soldiers around the grave; and he put the seal of the Roman government on the grave (Matt. 27:65,66). But, all his wicked designs failed to keep Jesus in the grave. When Christ arose, He forever sealed the doom of Satan (his head was crushed). In I Cor. 15:1-58 there is a powerful testimony, by way of summary, as to the conflict, and God's omnipotence over Satan. It is also a note of victory to those of us who are God's children.
What then is left for Satan? Deception. From the resurrection to the end of the age, is what Satan is using today to deceive and destroy mankind. In I John 3:8 it states that Christ came to destroy the works of Satan. This He did in His death/burial/resurrection. In the book of Acts there are seven verbs used in reference to Christ's death, but not one states that anyone destroyed Him. But scripture plainly states Christ destroyed the power of Satan. What then is left for Satan but deception. And, this is what he has so effectively played upon mankind since Christ's resurrection.
Christ realized Satan's designs of deception, when He gave the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24-30). As He stated to His disciples, that the sower sowed the grain; then another sowed tares/weeds. The Disciples said they should take out the weeds, but Jesus said to let the two grow together until the harvest, and the farmer would separate the grain from the weeds. In this analogy (parable), He stated that the seed was the good Word of God, and the weeds the deception of Satan. Thus we see in today's world that both righteousness and wickedness are prospering, and just as weeds outstrip the grain with little or no food, so wickedness seems to prosper and righteousness has a difficult time. But, this is not the way it will always be; someday, God will come in judgment and destroy wickedness forever (John 5:22-27).
Satan has used three great deceptions today, in seducing mankind away from the truth of God's revelation in Jesus Christ. It is important for the Christian to understand these, since we are not immune to Satan's deception, even though we are God's children. Granted, the Christian has the indwelling Holy Spirit to give us discernment (I Cor. 2:14; I John 4:4), so that we can be aware of the deception, whereas the unbeliever has no help from falling into Satan's trap.
The first great deception is that of Doctrine - Matt. 24:4,5. After coming out of the temple in Jerusalem, Christ spoke of its destruction, which elicited three questions from His Disciples (v.3). He answered only the second, "What shall be the sign of your coming?". He then stated, " - Take heed that no one deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ and shall deceive many" (v.4,5). The first and foremost deception of Satan is in reference to Biblical truth. He has tried, down through the centuries to produce many false Christs (i.e. so called Prophets); he has tried to undermine the truth of Scripture by addition or subtraction; he has used religious people to convolute scripture, to try and get it to say something that it doesn't, and all these things are intended to deceive unsuspecting people. Whereas, Christ said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes unto the Father but through me" (John 14:6). By that He meant that the only way of reconciliation of mankind to God was through acknowledging Christ as the only way of eternal life.
If Satan is unable to deceive one through a false Christ or false teaching, he then turns to the second great deception, that in regards to Sin - Heb. 3:13, "But encourage one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin". In today's world there are two popular words, "Rationalize" and "Justify", that are used by people to do what they wish to selfishly do, in order to avoid guilt and the consequences of their behavior. Since "Everyone is doing it, isn't it all right", according to many? Under this rubric the dirt of sin is swept, and people go on about their business, feeling they are getting away with it. God calls this being deceived in sin. In II Cor. 5:10 it says that we must all stand before God in judgment to, "Receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad". Then in Heb. 4:13 it notes that, "all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do". Just because the person of the world feels it is all right for him, does not necessarily mean that behavior is right for the Christian. The child of God marches to the beat of a different drummer.
The third and most subtle deception of Satan is in regard to Humanistic Philosophy - Col. 2:8, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends upon human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ"(NIV). The basic humanistic philosophy is that mankind's nature is good, even though he has fallen upon hard times, and needs help. Whereas, the Bible states that, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). Mankind has separated himself from God through sin. Satan tries to gloss this over through educated philosophical manipulation, intended to overwhelm people into believing they are O.K., and thus be deceived into believing to be somebody they are not. In Col. 2:9,10 God tells us, His children, that only in Christ dwells all the fullness of Deity, and that through regeneration in Him we are complete.
In I Tim. 4:1, it points out that "In the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines that demons teach". Demons deceive first in doctrine (e.g. most cults and isms deny the Deity of Jesus Christ, the inspiration of Scripture, the work of Christ on the cross, and His resurrection). Then in II Tim. 3:1,2 it states that in the "Last days perilous times shall come. For mankind shall be lovers of SELF". We see a proliferation of self- centeredness in our world today; the "Me" generation is prospering as never before, and mankind desires to get "All the gusto" out of life he can. Verse 13 says, "Evil men and deceivers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived". The Christian should not be surprised at what is transpiring in the world today, since God foretold this in His Word.
As Christians we are not left without admonition, as to how we should respond to all these things. In II Tim. 3:14-17 there is God's commendation to us, as to how should live in a wicked world. The Apostle Paul used a personal illustration in the life of Timothy, to apply to us all. He told him to continue to do the things he had been taught in a Godly way, by his Mother Lois, and his Grandmother, Eunice (See: II Tim. 1:5). A Godly heritage is one of the finest things parents can pass on to their children. Paul noted that Timothy had, "From a child known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto Salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ" (v.15).
Finally, in II Tim. 3:16 we have God's antidote to Satan's three deceptions of False doctrine, Sin, and Humanistic Philosophy, which says, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine (as the antidote to false doctrine), for reproof, for correction (as the antidote to sin), for instruction in righteousness (as the antidote to humanistic philosophy)". God's conclusion is found in v.17 which tells us, "That the child of God may be brought to maturity, thoroughly equipped unto all good works". God's Word is, "A lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my pathway (Ps. 119:105).
Satan does not deny the historical Jesus (even the cults don't do this), but he denies that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, the only Redeemer that can save mankind from his own self destruction.
In 1952 in the New York Times Sunday supplement magazine it stated that there were 113 notable books published, according to their reckoning, that had impacted our nation, between 1850 and 1950. It is interesting to see that not one of those books was written to honor the Lord Jesus Christ. So, how easily it is seen that Satan has riveted the chains of deception upon our country today. We are reaping what we have sown. "The one who sows to please his sinful nature (SELF), from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life" (NIV).
Chapter 8 - By God's Will
In the providence of God, there are four aspects of His complete plan for us His children, that are all encompassing from eternity past to eternity future. Though they are found in various aspects of scripture, there is a summation of them in Hebrews 10:10-18. In Chapter 2 we saw the three aspects of life for ourselves that we need to be aware of: 1) The entrance and problem of Sin; 2) The need for and way of Salvation; and 3) The way of Sanctification (i.e. Holy living) of life. In this chapter our lives are seen from God's perspective, and what He has done to bring reconciliation of mankind to Himself.
I. By God's Will We Have Been Sanctified - Heb. 10:10: This cares for the believer's Position in sin. God set apart all those who would accept His son as their Savior, before the foundation of the world was even laid. This was a positional setting apart. In Romans 8:29 it says, "For whom He did foreknow (i.e. God's omniscience) He also did predetermine to be conformed to the image of His son". Then in I Peter 1:2, it tells us that we have been, "Elected according to the foreknowledge of God the Father".
God brought His plan to fruition in Christ's redemptive work on the cross, as seen in this verse, "By the will of God we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all". The Greek present tense denotes a present condition, based on a past action.
Christ's offering dealt with the believer's position in sin. Since sanctification by Christ's sacrifice is judicial, God set the believers apart unto Himself, positionally putting us into a holy class before He could do anything for us personally. To illustrate, an adopted child must be legally adopted (i.e. he must have a position as a child of the new parents) before they are able to do anything about raising him as their own. So, God had to set us apart unto Himself, through Jesus Christ, before He could begin the life transforming power in us. Therefore, Christ's offering was once for all sanctifying (i.e. setting us apart as God's own possession) the believer, past, present, and future, once for all.
II. By God's Will We Have Been Justified - Heb. 10:11-13: This act of God cares for the believer's Penalty for sin. This too is a judicial act of God, because mankind is incapable of paying the penalty for his sins. Since God is infinite, our sins against Him are infinite in cost, and we would be all infinity paying for them. But, God now is able to declare the believer righteous (i.e. Justified) through the work Christ did on the cross.
Romans 3:24-26 explains that God justifies us through the redemptive work of Christ (v.24), and then enlightens us by noting that Christ was a propitiation (i.e. to actually care for our sins) for our sins, which we accept by faith. It is important to note in verse 25,26 that Christ did not make atonement (i.e. a covering over) for our sins, but propitiated (i.e. actually cared for) our sins. The word "Atonement" is strictly an Old Testament concept, since the sacrifice of animals didn't care for the sins of the people (see Heb. 10:4,11). It only covered them over until Christ came who actually cared for (i.e. propitiated, which is strictly a New Testament concept) the sins of both Old and New Testament believers. Under the Old Covenant God "Forebore" (v.25) the sins of the Old Testament saints until Christ came. Now, in v.26 it tells us that God is now able to be just (His holiness is exercised) and the justifier (declarer righteous) of him who believes in Jesus. It is worthy of note that the word "Atonement" is never used in the New Testament for it is strictly an Old Testament (Covenant) concept. Conversely, the word "Propitiation" is never used in the Old Testament, for it is strictly a New Testament (Covenant) concept.
Then in Hebrews 2:14,15 we see that Christ became flesh and blood. In other words He came into the realm of life in which we participate, in order to meet sin head on and conquer it, since sin was committed in the realm of flesh and blood. Christ's resurrection conquered death and Satan, so that all believers, past, present, and future could be delivered from the bondage of sin. On the basis of Christ's propitiatory work on the cross as well as His resurrection, God is able to justify the believer in Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10:13 looks forward to the culmination of this victory
III. By God's Will We Have Been Regenerated - Heb.10;15,16; This cares for the believer's Power over sin.
In verse 15 we see the Holy Spirit doing the work of regeneration and also indwelling the believer, to give him power to overcome sin. In verse 16 we see the two aspects of sin: 1) Volitional and 2) Intellectual.
The volitional is understood by, "I will put my law into their hearts", which provides for the believer a new nature that overcomes the old disposition or set of the human will (i.e. selfishness). Philippians 2:12,13 explains to us that we are to "work out your own Salvation with fear and trembling". The Salvation we have through regeneration is a gift of God, for which we can do no work, but what is meant here is that we are to work out in a maturing of our spiritual life, what God has given to us through the gift of eternal life. We don't fear God in the sense of being afraid, but in the sense of awe or respect to God for who He is. Verse 13 explains that it is the indwelling Holy Spirit within us that provides a willingness as well as an enablement to carry out our spiritual maturation.
The intellectual aspect of our new nature is seen in, "I will write my laws into their minds". This provides moral and spiritual discernment for the Christian (Heb.8:10). In John 14:16-26 Christ taught His Disciples of His return to Heaven, and He promised them "another Comforter" whom He said would be the Holy Spirit, to continually indwell them and abide in them. Then in John 16:7-14 Christ instructed the Disciples concerning the Holy Spirit by saying that "He will guide you into all the truth". The work of the Holy Spirit in the life of every Christian is to give us moral and spiritual discernment. In I Cor. 2:9- 14 we see that only the Christian has what the Bible states is "spiritual discernment". This enables us to comprehend the truth of the Bible in our understanding, and then as we allow the Holy Spirit to apply these truths to our development we become more spiritually mature. This is primarily what God wishes for His children (See I Peter 2:2; II Peter 3:18).
Regeneration brings a new life, a new heart, and a new will. Only the Christian has all these by the power of the Holy Spirit. The person of the world has intellectual understanding, but the Christian has the discernment of God's principles for wholeness of life.
IV. By God's Will We Have Been Glorified - Heb.10:14,17,18: This deals with the very Presence of sin.
Today, in the life of every Christian, there is a progressive transformation into God's likeness, that is taking place, but in these verses that God-likeness in us is seen as already completed, in God's mind. Since God does not operate in a time/space world as we do, everything in His plan is in the present, so that all that God has/is/will do for us is already completed by Him, ages ago.
This is why Romans 8:28-33, which follows through from eternity past to eternity future, is said that, "All things work together for good, to them that love God". It has not only been planned in eternity past, it is and will be carried out by God's sovereignty and omnipotence. On this we can rely.
In Heb. 10:14 it says that we are "perfected forever", which means "bearing through to the end". Then in Phil. 1:6, the Apostle Paul said, "I am confident of this very thing, that the Holy Spirit who has begun a good work in you through regeneration, will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ". I John 3:2 tells us that, "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is". I Thess. 5:24 notes that, "Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it".
This is why Heb. 10:17 states, "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more". For every child of God there is only a looking forward to that great day of eternity with our heavenly Father. Therefore, by God's will, from eternity to eternity, we have been, Sanctified/Justified/Regenerated/Glorified.
"I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean.
How marvelous, how wonderful, & my song shall ever be;
How marvelous, how wonderful, is my Savior's love for me.
When with the ransomed in glory, His face I at last shall see,
'Twill be my joy through the ages, to sing of His love for me.
How marvelous, how wonderful, & my song shall ever be;
How marvelous, how wonderful, is my Savior's love for me."
Chapter 9 - The Threefold Ministry of Christ
In Revelation 19:10 we read, "For the testimony borne to Jesus is the spirit of prophecy". This thought is probably the most all encompassing verse of the Bible. It underlies all of the revelation of God to mankind, as seen in His Word.
The word "Prophecy" has as its primary meaning, "To tell forth", and a secondary meaning of "Foretelling". The Prophets of old told forth the revelation of God to Israel, and a portion of their prophecies were futuristic, but primarily they were the mouthpieces of God to Israel, to reveal Himself and His commandments.
Prophecy, as a predictive element has but one objective, that is to give testimony concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, if we look at Prophecy in this manner throughout the Bible, we are able to say that in the Old Testament He is coming, in the Gospels He is here, and in the Epistles He is coming again.
Genesis 3:15 is the seed of all Messianic prophecy. The seed of the woman (i.e. Christ - Gal. 4:4) culminated in Jesus Christ, who in His death and resurrection forever crushed the power of Satan. All history is the story of two men (I Cor. 15:47): 1) Adam - from him issued forth ruined mankind, the rejection of Jesus Christ, and the eventual acceptance of the anti-christ. 2) Jesus Christ - from Him issued forth salvation to Adam's race, and ultimate dominion over all the world. Adam's fall centered the hope of restoration upon Jesus Christ, the second man. It is important to study these two men by way of contrast.
I. Concerning the Creation and Position of Adam. The Bible tells us four things about him. He was the first man(I Cor.15:45)
and there was no one before him. Second, he was the father of all mankind (Acts 17:26). Third, he was the federal man (Rom. 5:12), in that he held the governmental headship for all the peoples of the world. When he sinned he placed all of mankind in the realm of sin. Finally, he was a type of the second man, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:14), in that Christ became man (Jesus) and partook of human flesh in a time/space world. He came into the world of sin to undo what Adam had done in placing all of us in sin ( I John 3:8; I Cor. 15:22).
II. Concerning the Privileges and Failures of Adam. He enjoyed a standing before God in his sinless estate, as a Prophet, a Priest, and a King. As a Prophet, he knew the will of God by direct revelation. Adam and God walked together and enjoyed sweet fellowship, and God continued to reveal Himself to Adam, who in turn was to convey his understanding to his family. As Priest, Adam had a right standing before God, since he was sinless. As King God placed him over all the creation. He told Adam that the animals were subservient to him, that the ground was his to work, and it would produce abundantly. All this Adam and his family was to enjoy. Furthermore, he was to fill the earth with his progeny, and all this would continue eternally, with no death.
When Adam sinned he ceased to be a Prophet, because now there came a separation between God and him due to his sin. He needed to be taught the mind and will of God, since he no longer had it by direct revelation. He couldn't tell forth the revelation of God, because of the separation. He also ceased to be a Priest, for now he needed a mediator in his behalf before God. Thirdly, he ceased to be a King over the creation. Now the animals became wild, the ground brought forth weeds, etc., and by the sweat of his brow he would eke out a living. Adam was cast out of the garden of Eden. These were the consequences of his sin, which essentially was his turning from being God centered to becoming self centered. All this was due to the deception of Satan, as embodied in the serpent, who deceived both Adam and Eve. All of the world's problems from this time to the present are seen in the self centeredness of mankind. Thus the need for a successor to Adam.
III. Concerning Adam's Successor. This brings us to the point of Genesis 3:15.
In this verse the seed of the woman was now promised. The first man, Adam, left to posterity alienation from God. But, in the promised Messiah (Christ), the "Last Adam" (I Cor. 15:45), complete triumph over Satan is promised. Satan, through the serpent, bruised the "heel" of the woman, in that the deception of Adam/Eve has carried down through the ages to every person in our sin nature. But, the promised seed of the woman, "He" (Christ), would crush the power of Satan forever (I John 3:8). This was guaranteed to all mankind in the resurrection of Christ from the dead (I Cor. 15:20-26).
At this point of the story God used three methods to prepare for the advent of the seed of the woman. He raised up a succession of Prophets, who were God's mouthpiece to Israel. Then, He raised up a family of Priests, from the tribe of Levi, who were men of special sanctification to mediate between Israel and God. Finally, He raised up a race of Kings, from the tribe of Judah, who were a special choice of God to rule over Israel. The Old Testament is a record of how these three classes fulfilled their function.
Yet, in all the Old Testament, not one Prophet/Priest/King, was found upon whom the Spirit of God could rest and remain as Savior for Israel. The reason? The "Seed of the woman" had not yet appeared (Gal. 4:4). The Old Testament concludes with all these longings as yet unfulfilled.
The point of the text in Revelation 19:10 shows that in the Old Testament the Spirit of prophecy was bearing witness to the fact that one would come, who: 1) As Prophet - would fulfill in His life and work all the prophecies of the Old Testament, and 2) As Priest - would explain in His death and propitiation, all the ceremonies of the Levitical priesthood, and 3) As King - would satisfy in His resurrection and coming again, all the human longings.
We now turn to the New Testament to see the record or testimony borne to Jesus Christ, as Prophet/Priest/King.
1) As Prophet - Moses, who was the great Prophet of the Old Testament, and a type of Christ, gave the promise in Deuteronomy 18:15 when he spoke of another Prophet, like unto him, when he said, "Unto Him you shall listen", referring to the coming Christ. In Acts 3:22, the Apostle Peter was preaching, when he quoted from Deut. 18:15, and likened what Moses prophesied to the Lord Jesus Christ. Stephen in Acts 7:37 did likewise in his defense of Jesus Christ.
Moses was the lesser Prophet, and gave only fragmentary prophecies, whereas Christ the greater Prophet, fulfilled them all. In Hebrews 1:1,2 we note the contrast between the Old Testament Prophets (v.1) and Jesus Christ, God's Son, who brought God's final and last prophecies (v.2). Christ is God's completed revelation to mankind (II Cor. 4:6).
2) As Priest - Under the old covenant, Aaron was the High Priest, who was a type of Christ. This is seen from Heb.5:1-10, where it states that Aaron was chosen from among men, and appointed of God. So was Christ. The difference between them was that Aaron could not put away sin (Heb. 7:26-28), whereas Christ could and did (Heb. 10:14). Furthermore, Aaron's priesthood was carried on on earth, but Christ's is carried on in heaven (Heb. 8:1-5).
Aaron entered into the holiest place in the Tabernacle, and no one dared follow. Christ entered into heaven itself, not only to carry on intercession for us, but has left the way open for all to follow, and bids us enter (Heb. 6:20; 4:14-16). Therefore, Christ was and is the perfect priest of God, for us.
3) As King - When God spoke in times past, there were many implications that He was preparing for the great and coming king. The many kings of the Old Testament foreshadowed the King of kings. In Hebrews 7:1ff the king who is mentioned as a type of Christ is not David/Solomon/Hezekiah, etc., but Melchizedec, King of Salem. When he is described it states that he was "Priest of the most high God" (Heb. 7:1).
Melchizedec is a type of Christ, and in Hebrews 7 there is a play upon words, both in his name and his title. In Hebrews 7:1,2 it points out that Melchisedec is compound from two Hebrew words. The first part "Mel" means "king" in Hebrew language; the last part "Chizedec" is a transliteration of a word that means "Righteousness". The word "Salem" means "Peace". In verse two the interpretation is explained. The reason for all this is that Christ is both "King of righteousness" as well as "King of peace".
In Zechariah 6:12,13 it prophetically states that the "BRANCH", who is Christ, will be both a king and priest on His throne. When Christ comes to rule the world, He will institute everlasting righteousness, and then, and only then, will the world enjoy the peace it so sorely desires (Jeremiah 23:4-6).
Hebrews 7:11-17 it points out a fact that all Jewish people understood; that a king dared not enter the Priesthood or vice versa. The two offices were separate, as commanded by God. But the Hebrew passage points out that the Levitical Priesthood could not bring in perfection, so the law was changed by God. Therefore, Christ came both as King and Priest since He came to rule, as well as to care for sins and effect perfection.
For Christ is the true King of Righteousness and after that King of Peace. Throughout His Millenial reign He will fulfill God's divine order, first righteousness then peace.
Return to the text of Revelation 19:10. The testimony to Jesus in this passage is of a prophetic character and a threefold nature: Prophet/Priest/King. In the book of Revelation there are no less than three indicators of this: Revelation 1:4 states, "From Him which is (i.e. Christ as Priest), and which was (Christ as Prophet), and which is to come (Christ as King)". Then Revelation 1:5 says, "From Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness (as true Prophet), and the firstborn of the dead (as the true Priest), and the Prince of the kings of the earth (as Lord omnipotent, King of kings)".
Finally, in Revelation 19:1-16 the four "Alleluias" (v.1,3,4,6) denote Christ as: Prophet (v.11 - "Faithful and true"), Priest (v.13 - Garment sprinkled with blood"), and coming King (v.16 - "King of kings and Lord of lords"). Revelation 19 depicts the battle of Armageddon, where Christ will return to the earth to rule and reign over the nations. In the context of this chapter, the Apostle John is so overcome with emotion in the vision he is witnessing, that he falls at the feet of the escorting Angel, who says, "John don't worship me, I'm just a fellow servant; worship God: for the testimony borne to Jesus is the essence of all Biblical prophecy". This speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God's final and last Prophet to mankind, the only Priest who could put away the sins of world, and the coming King over all the earth; worship Him.
I hear the Savior say,
Thy strength indeed is small,
Child of weakness watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.
Jesus Paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
Lord, now indeed I find,
Thy power and thine alone,
Can change the leper's spots,
And melt the heart of stone.
For nothing good have I,
Whereby thy grace to claim,
I'll wash my garments white,
In the blood of Calvary's lamb.
And, when before the throne,
I stand in Him complete,
"Jesus died my soul to save",
My lips shall still repeat,
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
Chapter 10 - The Course of This World
In the world of conflict and turmoil which we constantly see, the primary battle is not in the material world which we understand, but in the spirit world which we do not sense with our sensory perceptions.
Ephesians 6:12 states, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (i.e. above the time/space/material world, the world of the spiritual)". Again, in I John 5:19 it says, "And we know we are of God, and the whole world lies in the lap of the wicked one". This conveys the idea that the world is under the control of Satan. God has allowed mankind, of his own free will, to exercise his self-centeredness to the extent that Satan has brought the world under his control, by catering to mankind's selfishness.
In Luke 4:1-13 it is seen that Satan even tried to bring Christ under his control, by playing upon Jesus' human vulnerability, when He was tired and hungry. Satan tempted Jesus in three ways, each designed to allow Satan to gain control over Him. Jesus rebuked Satan at every turn, yet Satan continued to tempt Jesus through using the Pharisees, the Roman government, etc. throughout the public ministry of Christ.
Over the period of time in the history of mankind, we see the course of the world as antagonistic to the purpose for which Jesus Christ came into the world.
I. The Purpose For Which Christ Came - In Hebrews 2:14,15 we understand that since sin was committed in the realm of "Flesh and blood", that Christ came into this realm to meet sin head on and conquer it. Satan introduced sin into the realm of mankind, through deception of Adam/Eve in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, God sent Jesus Christ into the human realm to deal with sin in that realm.
Negatively, I John 3:8 tells us that Christ, "Was manifested that He might destroy the works of the Devil". This He did when God resurrected Jesus from the grave. Mankind's sins caused Christ to die; Satan tried to keep Him in the grave, hoping to overcome Jesus and what He had done in caring for mankind's sins. The moment He arose from the grave, it forever sealed the doom of Satan. Today, Satan is living on "borrowed time", awaiting judgment.
Positively, in II Corinthians 4:4-6 it tells us that God sent Jesus Christ, "To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ". He came into our time/space/material world to be a reflection of the Godhead, so that we who live in the confines of this world could comprehend the Godhead, who doesn't exist within our framework of knowing.
II. The Philosophy of Mankind - Since all humans operate on a personal philosophy or worldview, it is important to understand the Biblical view of mankind's philosophy of life.
Basically, all mankind begins with a self centered nature, which is separate from God, and diametrically opposed to God's control. This is seen in God's dealings with Israel as stated by the Prophet Jeremiah 22:21, when God spoke to Israel saying, "I spoke unto you in your prosperity; but you said, I will not hear. This has been your manner from your youth, that you have not obeyed my voice".
Again, this refers back to the Garden of Eden, when Satan deceived Adam/Eve to turn from listening to God, and instead exercising their own selfish desires. In Genesis 3:6 this selfishness is well evidenced when they saw the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, prohibited by God from eating, to be "Good for food" (i.e. the lust of the flesh), "Pleasant to the eyes" (i.e. the lust of the eyes), and "Desired to make one wise" (i.e. the pride of life), they ate and thereby incurred sin, not only for themselves, but for all humanity (Romans 5:12). Note the contrast of a God centered life as seen in I John 2:15-17.
Isaiah 29:13 is an excellent illustration of mankind's religious external ritual of the worship of God, with an inward hypocrisy of the heart: "The Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is learned by rote". Much of religious worship is just going through ritualistic and liturgical motions, as seen in the constant recital of the Lord's prayer, without a heart of Love for the Lord Jesus Christ. This is Satan's philosophy riveted upon mankind for deception. This is the course of this world.
III. The Present Condition of the World - The New Testament, though written two thousand years ago, is an excellent commentary on the present condition of the world today. In II Timothy 3:1-7 we have a litany of things that engulf the self-centeredness of mankind, in an ever increasing fashion. It is basically that of self love. In II Peter 2:10-14 there is presented an outline of the anarchy that is fast overtaking mankind today. Then. II Peter 3:3-9 points out the retribution of God's coming judgment because of mankind's sins.
II Peter 2:4-9 speaks to three historical first occurrence events of God's judgment on the world, to say to us today that the "Fire" of God's coming judgment on the earth is a sure thing. Ezekiel 16:49,50 tells of God's judgment on Sodom/Gomorrah, which elements are seen in the world in which we live, and just as God took them away, He will judge the world of iniquity today.
Conclusion: The Christian's response to the self centerd philosophy of the world is found in I Peter 2:11-15. He tells us that our manner of life should be honest, exercise good works, be submissive to the laws of the land for the Lord's sake, give honor to others, love fellow Christians, honor the Lord Jesus Christ, and honor our leaders in government. We are not to use the liberty we have in Christ to be a cover up for evil.
Finally, in II Timothy 3:12-17, we note that as evil progresses Christians will suffer persecution more and more. Our response is stated clearly: we are to continue to abide by the Word of God, to not be deceived by evil people, and allow the Scriptures to be our guide and strength. Trust our Heavenly Father who is sovereign and in control.
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word.
What more can He say than to you He has said,
To you, who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, I will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my gracious, omnipotent hand.
When through the fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall by thy supply;
The flames shall not hurt thee, I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake.
Chapter 11- A New Nature, A New Help, A New Assurance, A New Hope
Biblical principles are God's way of conveying to mankind how to live, and to Christians the path of progressive maturity in the faith. These principles are interwoven into the fabric of human beings and nature, so that as we relate to them we are able to understand God's way of life for us. Primarily the New Testament was written in a format of Principle/Doctrine then Practice/Duty concept.
In this chapter we shall see examples of Faith and Promises in the Bible, where admonitions to Christian living follow. The admonition to Christian living is usually denoted by the words, "Therefore" or "Wherefore", which then provides the practical application of the principle.
An example of this is seen in Hebrews 11:40 followed by Hebrews 12:1.(Note: Sometimes the chapter divisions get in the way, as seen in this illustration.) The thought in Chapter 11 is followed by the application in Chapter 12. In Chapter 11 we see examples of faith in the lives of the Old Testament saints, and v.40 tells us that God has better things for all His children, but that the Old Testament saints will not be perfected without the New Testament saints. Then Chapter 12 is the admonition to us, based upon the thought of the previous chapter, introduced by the word, "Wherefore". Then the practical application of the principle is outlined to us, as behaviors to follow. The principle of God's dealings with the Old Testament saints should be a model for us to follow in the development of our lives today.
There are four of these examples that provide for the Christian: A New Nature; A New Help; A New Assurance; A New Hope.
I. A New Nature - I Peter 1:23 with 2:1-8. In v.23 the promise of God to us is that the child of God has been regenerated with a new nature that cannot die or be taken away. This is assured to us by the Word of God. Then in 2:1-8 is the admonition to Christian living, based upon the promise of God, introduced by the word, "Wherefore".
The context of this passage is an imperative that we are to grow spiritually (v.2 - "Crave the unadulterated milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby"). As part of the process of growth through the divine nature is for one to be rid of (v.1): Malice (i.e. evil intention to injure others), Guile (i.e. deceit, cunning, fraud), Hypocrisy (i.e. pretending to be what one is not), Envy (i.e. a desire to possess what is others), and Slander of every kind. These are not conducive to spiritual growth, and the putting aside of them is indicative of growth.
II. A New Help - Col. 3:1-4 with 3:5-10 - The exercise of faith is seen in v.1,2, where it is stated that the Christian has a heavenly position with Christ, and that when Christ returns we shall appear with Him in glory (v.4), which means that we shall enjoy the fullness of God's moral attributes eternally. In v.2 God tells us that we are dead to sin, in that it doesn't have us in its grasp because we are "In Christ", and our life is in Him. This help we have is through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, given to us by the promise and authority of Christ Himself (John 14:16-26; 16:7-14).
Verses 5-10 begins the practical application of this new help by the word, "Therefore". Because of our new life in Christ, and the help that we have in the Spirit, we are to "Mortify", i.e. put to death in our lives those elements of our selfish desires: immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed which is idolatry (See: Rom. 8:13). These are inward sins which can be exercised without external communication.
Then, in v.8 we note the outward sins, which are usually reflected from one to the other: anger, rage, malice, slander(ill will), and filthy language.
Remember, God's principles are always perfect, as coming from a Holy God, and though we cannot live up to them perfectly, they are goals toward which we should strive in this life, by the submission of the Self to the Holy Spirit. As we willingly allow Him to control us, He transforms (i.e. re-characterizes) us to conform our lives to God's will for us. All this leads to the "Fruit of the Spirit" as seen in Galatians 5:22-24. This is the help that we have from Him.
III. A New Assurance - Ephesians 3:13-20 with 4:1-3. In v.17-19 the exercise of faith is seen in the Apostle's prayer for the Christian, that we may be grounded in the faith, to understand the mind of God, and to be filled with the love of God and His fullness. The promise of God is stated in v.20 in that God is able to do an exceedingly good work in us according to His power that indwells us. With all that He has promised, how can we fail?
"Therefore" (4:1-3) the Apostle commends to us that we "Live a life worthy of the calling we have received". We are to exercise ourselves unto being "Humble and gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace". The way by which that can be attained is through the assurance from God, of all that we have in Him, and through all that He is willing to do for us. We do have all the resources we need to live a Godly life, if we allow the Spirit to control us.
IV. A New Hope - I Corinthians 15:1-57 with 15:58. In v. 3,4 we have a statement that gives us the essence of the Gospel of Christ's death/burial/resurrection. Verse 17 points out our exercise of faith based on the statement. If Christ is not raised then our faith is in vain. But, in v.20 it says that Christ is risen, and not only is our faith valid, but because He lives we too shall live (John 14:19). The resurrection of Christ guarantees our resurrection someday.
God's promise to the Christian as a result of all this is seen in v.51- 57. The "Sting of death" has been removed from the child of God; the grave no longer will be victorious over us; and someday, "At the last trump" our corruptible body will be transformed into an incorruptible body. This is God's eternal promise to us. What a future the Christian has.
The admonition to the Christian -v.58 - "Therefore, my beloved people, be steadfast, immovable, always overflowing in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord".
Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine,
Living with Jesus, a new life divine.
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, O Lord I am thine.
Never a trial that He is not there,
Never a burden that He does not bear,
Never a sorrow that He does not share,
Moment by moment, I'm under His care.
Never a heartache and never a groan,
Never a teardrop and never a moan;
Never a danger, but there on the throne,
Moment by moment He thinks of His own.
Moment by moment I'm kept in His love,
Moment by moment I've life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, O Lord I am thine.
Chapter 12 - God's Will and Man's Character
After one has made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior of his life, the primary desire on God's part is for that person to come to Spiritual maturity, in a life long endeavor of growth. There are several verses that emphasize this aspect of the Christian life: I Peter 2:2; I Peter 4:1,2; II Peter 3:18; Col. 1:27,28.
In John 14:16-26, Christ spoke to the Disciples concerning His return to Heaven, and told them He would send another Comforter, who would be the Holy Spirit, to indwell the believers. Then in John 16:13, He said of the Holy Spirit that, "He will guide you into all the truth". It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer to guide one toward this goal of maturity, that is to re-characterize the Christian from being self centered to being Christ centered and more like Him.
The problem that every Christian has in this work is the basic sin nature that is common to all. The character that we possess is from two elements: 1) Genetic inherited tendencies, and 2) Learned behaviors which we acquired from our family of origin, as we watched our parents model before us. Both of these sources, plus our basic sin nature, tend to cause us to be the self centered person we are, which is opposite from being God centered, which is what He desires for us.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the new born Christian, to begin the life long process of producing a change of character in the child of God. The promise and hope to us is God's promise that this continuing transformation will be perfect and complete at the coming of Jesus Christ for His children. This is seen in Phil. 1:6 and I John 3:2,3, and is guaranteed to us by the resurrection of Christ (I Cor.15:20-23; See also John 14:19).
I. How This Is Accomplished - It starts with the WILL. Since mankind's will is opposed to God's will for him, the Christian must begin here. In Matt. 6:33, Christ said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you". The last part of the verse is God's promise to us based upon our acceptance of the first part. God knows our needs better than we know our needs, and He said, "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil.4:19).
Then, in Rom. 12:1,2 we have the "What" in verse one, that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice (Christ gave up His body unto death for us; isn't it reasonable for Him to ask that we be a living example for Him?). Verse two provides the "How" to do it. We are not to conform ourselves to be like the world, but to allow the Holy Spirit to transform our lives into Christ's likeness, that we may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God for us. His will for us is always good, acceptable, and perfect, and customized for each person by the Holy Spirit.
In I John 2:15-17 we have the admonition not to love the things of this world, "The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life". John tells us these things will pass away, but the Christian who does the will of God will abide forever. Satan used these three elements, in the Garden of Eden, to deceive Adam/Eve. In Gen. 3:6 as the serpent presented the tree to them they saw that it was, "Good for food" (the lust of the flesh), and that it was "Pleasant to the eyes" (the lust of the eyes), and a tree to be, "Desired to make one wise" (the pride of life)", and they succumbed to Satanic deception.
Once the Christian has made up his mind to follow and serve the Lord, by listening to the Holy Spirit, then Psalm 37:3-7 provides the framework of how to go about making the choices and decisions of life. First, one is to TRUST in the Lord, and do good according to Biblical principles. Then follows a delight in wanting to carry out the principles in behavior. Next comes a daily committal of one's life to the Holy Spirit's control, and allowing Him to bring to pass His best for one's development of things for that day. The admonition is to wait patiently for the Lord, as He is in control. This does not mean that one cannot plan ahead, but to always commit those plans to the Lord, and be willing to shift, if the Lord through circumstances and controlling of the mind orders otherwise. Keeping a sensitive ear to the Holy Spirit and God's principles, is the best way to go.
II. Guaranteed Results - Every person desires joy, happiness, fulfillment, peace, prosperity, success, etc., and God wishes these for His children. But, we must accomplish them in God's way, and by His means, if we are to be truly fulfilled in life.
There are two ways by which we achieve our goals in life; God's way through following Biblical principles guarantees success, whereas for the Christian to follow his selfish ways guarantees failure and sadness. There are three scriptures that have bearing on this: Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2,3; Rom. 8:6. Let's examine these important ideas.
In Joshua 1:8 Israel's new leader, Joshua, is about to lead Israel into the land of Canaan. God instructs him as to prosperity and success in their new venture; meditate upon the law of God, day and night, and then both prosperity and success would be guaranteed by God to Israel. It is interesting to note that the word, "Success" is used only one in the Bible, in this verse. The admonition to us today is clear; as we move forward in the unchartered waters of life, as we allow the Word of God to permeate and control our live, God is the guarantor that we will be both prosperous, as God evaluates prosperity, as well as be successful in His eyes. By following His Word, we become re-characterized through the work of the Holy Spirit. The result is a change of character to become more Christ-like, and the evidence is the "Fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22-24).
Psalm 1:2,3 gives to us, by analogy, an affirmation of what was seen in Joshua 1:8. God tells us that when we delight in the law of God day and night, to allow the Holy Spirit, through the Word to permeate our life, then we will be like a tree that is well planted, well watered, good leaves, and prosperous. When one sees that kind of a tree, we realize that it is a good tree. God tells us we can be like that, as we allow His Word to control our life.
Finally, in Romans 8:6, we have a basic principle of life that is plainly understood: "For to be fleshly (i.e. self centered) minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace". As the Holy Spirit controls and guides the Christian, the fullness of life, with inward peace, becomes the controlling factor in that person. This is God's supreme will for every child of His.
Every individual desires to get ahead in life, and God has a formula for that, as found in Deuteronomy 28:13, "The Lord will make you the head, not the tail, if you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom". God wants us to be on the cutting edge of life, not on the trailing element. This is the God ordained way to be there.
III. How One Can Know God's Will - There are two ways by which the Christian is able to generally discern the will of God for one's life.
The first is the Internal principle. Submission of one's will to the control of the Holy Spirit, then allows Him to change the thoughts and intents of the mind and heart, to bring one's internal ideas into conformity to the principles of God's Word. One's desires are now in the process of change, as guided and controlled by the Holy Spirit.
Then comes the External principle. Conditions outside of one's life, over which there may be little or no control, are then controlled by the Holy Spirit, to bring both the internal desires, and the external conditions into conformity to God's will for His child. All this is for our good and maturation.
God never allows anything to come into the lives of His children, but what it is for their good and His honor in their lives. God is not a capricious Father, zapping His children for His pleasure, laying trials and tribulations upon us indiscriminately. Even the adversities of life are for our ultimate benefit, and become experiences through which our character is developed according to His will for us. This is why one can say, "All things work together for good" (Rom. 8:28), not necessarily as we evaluate them, but as God does for our character development.
Therefore, we can give thanks to God in our prosperity (Eph.5:20) as well as in our adversity (I Thess 5:18). This is why the Apostle Paul was able to say, "God said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in your weakness". Paul was then able to reply that in Christ, "When I am weak, then am I strong" (II Corinthians 12: 9,10). Trusting God for everything, strengthens us, and provides a continuing maturity in life.
IV. Conclusion - There are parting promises given to the Christian as one is guided and controlled by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
Of all people in the world, the Christian should be the most optimistic in life. In Philippians 4:6-8 we are told not to be disturbed about anything (that is highly idealistic, since we do get bent out of shape by circumstances), but "In everything by prayer and supplication (that means to lay it on the Lord) let your requests be made known unto God". The response of God is His promise to us in verse 7, "And the peace of God, which is beyond our comprehension, will surround our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus".
Then, in John 14:27 Christ tells us, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid". Again, in John 16:33 He said, "In the world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world". In Hebrews 13:5,6 God's Word comforts us with, "For He has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you, so that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, why should I fear".
Lastly, Christ said in John 10:10, "I am come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly". Again, He said in John 15:11, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full". God's will for us His children is continuing growth to become more like the Lord Jesus Christ, and along the pathway of life to enjoy life to the full. This is God's way for every child of His.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
To Him I owe my life and breath,
And all the joys I have,
He makes me triumph over death,
And saves me from the grave.
Since from His bounty I receive,
Such proofs of love divine;
Had I a thousand hearts to give,
Lord, they should all be thine.
Chapter 13 - A Guide for Life - The Holy Spirit
At some point in the ministry of Christ, He began to instruct His Disciples concerning His death/burial/resurrection/ascension into heaven. He was their comforter, but now He would eventually leave them, and send "Another Comforter", whom He stated would be the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-26; 16:7-14).
The Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-17) to empower them to carry out Christ's commission that He had instructed them to do (Matt. 28:19,20; Mark 16:15). The work of the Holy Spirit would be to regenerate, baptize, fill, energize, empower, and give gifts & wisdom to all Christians. Thus, His ministry in the life of Christians today is to provide all these elements in order to bring eternal life to every Christian, and assist him to spiritual maturation. Then He helps every child of God to carry out the commission originally given to the Disciples to go into the world and let our light shine for Him.
I. The Personality and Work of the Holy Spirit - He is the third person of the Trinity, with all the distinctive marks of personality, and is called God (Acts 5:3,4). He is the author and interpreter of Scripture (II Peter 1:21; I Cor. 2:10-12).
In the Old Testament His ministry was not general on all Israelites, but on select people only (I Sam. 16:14), whereas in the New Testament the Holy Spirit indwells (i.e. baptizes) all believers at the moment of regeneration (Rom. 8:9; Eph. 1:13,4:30; I Cor. 6:19, 12:13).
His work is threefold in the life of the believer: 1) In the Past tense He has regenerated, baptized, indwelt, and sealed every Christian, when one has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Eph. 1:13). 2) Presently, He is infilling, imparting spiritual gifts, anoints, teaches, satisfies, witnesses, intercedes, protects, and produces fruit in the believer (I Cor. 6:19,20). 3) In the future He will raise and glorify the resurrected body of the saints (Rom. 8:11).
II. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit - The baptism of the Holy Spirit is God's divinely ordained way whereby the believer enters into that sphere of relationship to God, by the work of Christ through the Holy Spirit placing the believer into the family of God. The Christian is then said to be "In Christ" through the operation of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:13). All believers who have exercised faith in the propitiatory work of Christ (Rom. 3:24,25) are baptized (i.e. placed into) by the Spirit at the moment of Salvation. The Greek word "Baptidzo" means to place into, so it is the operation of the Spirit placing the believer into the family of God. This is a once for all act, at the time of Salvation, and is common to every believer. One cannot become a Christian apart from the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The results are that: 1) It brings us into the family of God (II Cor. 5:17,21; Gal. 3:27); 2) It gives us access unto God Himself (Eph. 2:18); and 3) It identifies us with Christ in His death/resurrection (Rom. 6:2- 5).
III. The Infilling of the Holy Spirit - There is a Biblical command in Eph. 5:18 to be filled with the Spirit. The present tense in the Greek in this verse, shows that God wants us to be continually filled with the Spirit. This marks the difference between baptism, which is a once for all complete act (Eph. 2:22; 4:4-6,30; I Cor. 12:13; Rom. 8:9) and infilling, which is many acts (Eph.5:18)
Definition - to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to have Him fulfilling in us all that God intended Him to continually do in us, when God placed Him in us at salvation. It is not the Christian getting more of the Spirit, but the Spirit getting more of the Christian, by submission to His will for that one. In order for this to be accomplished, it is the Word filled life that contributes to the Spirit filled life. As the Christian meditates upon the truth of God's Word, and allows the Spirit to permeate that life, the person becomes more like Christ, which is what God desires. Compare Eph. 5:18 with Col. 3:16. In the Ephesian passage it commends to us to be filled with the Spirit. In the Colossian passage it substitutes, "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly". The Spirit filled Christian is the Word filled Christian.
There are three scriptural conditions for the filling by the Holy Spirit.
1) I Thessalonians 5:19 - "Quench not the Spirit". That is, do not stifle or suppress the Spirit's will for us. We are constantly commended to yield to the Spirit's control (Rom. 6:13).
2) Ephesians 4:30 - "Grieve not the Spirit". That is by sinning. Quenching the Spirit will in turn lead to grieving the Spirit by sin, which in turn leads to loss of fellowship and the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-24). The remedy for sin is confession (I John 1:9).
3) Galatians 5:16 - "Walk by the power of the Spirit". This means to continually walk by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which is a daily continuing act of the believer delivering one's self to the Holy Spirit's control. Failure to do so will result in the loss of spiritual power and failure in life.
The results of being filled with the Spirit are found in many passages of Scripture. Galatians 5:22-24 shows the fruit of the Spirit controlled life. This fruit is the evidence of a Holy Spirit re-characterized life. One does not have the fruit of the Spirit by wanting it, but by submission to the Spirit who changes the character, and the fruit is the result.
In John 16:12-15 and I Corinthians 2:9-14 we see that the Holy Spirit teaches the Spirit filled believer, to guide one into knowing the truth of God, and to give that one "Spiritual discernment", which the non- believer does not have. The Christian has God given insight to understand the Word of God. Though the non-believer is able to read the Bible, he is unable to comprehend it, due to the fact that it is "Spiritually discerned (I Cor. 2:14).
Romans 8:14 shows that the Holy Spirit gives guidance to the Christian. While the Bible provides the principles of the Christian life, it is the Holy Spirit who applies them specifically in the life of the Christian. Roman 8:16 shows the assurance one has of his salvation, through the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:18-20 and Colossians 3:16 tells how the Christian is guided in true worship. Romans 8:26 directs one's prayer to God, in the proper way, by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 2:10 tells how the Spirit directs the believer's service to God. In I Corinthians 2:14-16 we note that only the Holy Spirit can give the Christian discernment between good and evil. All these elements work together to provide spiritual growth and fullness of life.
IV. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit - I Corinthians 12:4- 18 speaks of the "gifts" of the Holy Spirit to the Christian.
Though every believer possesses some divinely bestowed gift (Eph. 4:7), there is a diversity of gifts (Rom. 12:6). Christians are not all appointed to do the same thing. It is the Holy Spirit who distributes the talents/gifts to the Christian as He pleases, and this distribution is that which is best suited for every personality and character.
Each person has three basic gifts (Rom. 12;7,8). These are, helps that can be done to serve others, whatever they may be; giving, which may be services, not necessarily money; and thirdly, "showing mercy(i.e. to withhold judgment) with cheerfulness". Every child of God can commonly do these.
I Corinthians 12 outlines the gifts and how they are dispensed and utilized. The Apostle Paul uses the analogy of the physical body, like the body of believers. Just as the body is composed of many coordinated parts, each functioning as part of a unit, so the body of Christians, having diversity of talents, should function as one body of believers, coordinated together under the control of the Holy Spirit. In I Corinthians 12:31 we are exhorted to earnestly seek the best gifts that God has for us, and to exercise them well for His service (Note: I Tim.4:14).
Christian are not Spirit filled because they are active in service; they are active in service because they are Spirit filled (I Cor. 4:2).
In Ephesians 4:12-14 we note the purpose of the gifts. There are three: 1) For the maturing of the saints, 2) For the work of ministrations (i.e. helps), and 3) For the building up (edifying) of the body of Christ. In verses 13,14 we see the results: 1) To establish unity in the faith, 2) That Christians might become mature in Christ, 3) To be more Christ like, and 4) To become strong in the faith, not like naive children, so that the Christian is not carried away by false cults.
The ministry of the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential to every Christian. For without Him, one could not become a believer, and only with His indwelling can one come to a full understanding and development as a Christian. This is God's ordained plan for each one of us.
How I praise thee precious Savior,
That thy love laid hold of me.
Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me,
That I might thy channel be.
Jesus, fill now with thy Spirit,
Hearts that full surrender know;
That the streams of living water,
From our inner man may flow.
Channels only, blessed Master,
But with all thy wondrous power,
Flowing through us, though canst use us,
Every day and every hour.
Chapter 14 - The Spiritual Life & the Worldly Life
Once a person has made a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, and has become a regenerated believer, that individual has a new nature that cannot sin, which is diametrically opposed to his original self- centered nature, which desires to continue to do self centered things. There is therefore a continuing conflict between the two natures, that produces constant conflict throughout life.
The Holy Spirit within the believer is given to help the Christian to grow spiritually to maturity, and thereby provide spiritual strength to overcome the pull of the self centered nature. It is up to the Christian to make up his "WILL" as to which of the two natures he allows to control him (Rom. 12:1,2).
Originally, in the Garden of Eden, God gave to Adam/Eve a will which they could exercise: follow God's way and refuse to eat of the forbidden fruit of the tree, or exercise their own will and eat, going against God's prohibition. They listened to the serpent's deception and ate, and thereby incurred a self centered, sinful nature, as well as separation from God. This nature has been passed down to each of us (Rom. 5:12). This nature is what Christ came to save us from, as well as to destroy the work of Satan against us (I John 3:8).
When we accept what Christ did for us, we are regenerated and receive the nature of God through the Holy Spirit, which cannot sin. God does not eliminate our old nature when we become a Christian, but allows it to work against our new nature, so that as we submit to the Holy Spirit transforming our character, and the interaction between the natures causes our new nature to be strengthened. This helps us to "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).The key to overcoming of the old nature, and our growth in the new nature depends on our WILL. This is why there is so much emphasis upon our will in the Bible.
In order for us to have a clear understanding of the two natures, it is important to know the contrast between the two, as well as the results. Then we are able to better understand what we should do.
THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
THE WORLDLY LIFE
1. Love - God gives to us John 3:16
1. Hate - Man takes from man Matt.24:10; Luke 6:22
2. Christ Centered life John 3:30
2. Self Centered life II Tim. 3:2
3. Fruits of the Spirit Gal. 5:22-24
3. Works of the flesh Gal. 5:17-21
1. True Character of life Rom. 12:2
1. Two facedness (Masking) Ps. 12:2; James 4:8
2. Serving Others John 13:35
2. Serving Self (Ego minded) Rom. 12:3,16
3. Seeks first God's Way Matt. 6:33
3. Seeks Materialism/Power Rom. 8:6
4. Genuine love for others John 15:12
4. Beware of Cares of this World, Deceitfulness of Riches, and the Lusts of Other Things. Mark 4:19
5. Hope of Eternal Life Phil. 1:6
5. Transient Life I John 2:15-17
In conclusion it is well to note what the Word tells us concerning our nature, and the exercising of it in love: I Corinthians 13:1-13; I John 4:7-21; and II Timothy 1:7.
"For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of POWER, and of LOVE, and of a SOUND MIND".
- POWER - To live constructively
- LOVE - To live sacrificially
- SOUND MIND - To live reasonably
Therefore, in Christ we have all things we need to live a Godly life, to develop our Christian nature, to let our light shine to the world, as well as the resource for all of this through our submission to the Holy Spirit's control. What more can we ask, or do we need?
Chapter 15 - Personhood and Biblical Principles
In a recent research project on children who were personally secure, it was found that there were four significant factors that contributed to their security:
1) A great amount of ACCEPTANCE by their parents.
2) Clearly defined & consistently ENFORCED LIMITS.
3) The parents related to the child with RESPECT.
4) The parents needed to have personal self esteem, and provided a good ROLE MODEL for the child.
Christians, who are the children of God, need to search for this pattern in the Bible, in order to reinforce one's personhood and spiritual security in the maturation process of life. There are a number of references to guide one in this way.
In Luke 2:52 it says, "And Jesus (emphasis on the human person) increased in wisdom (That's mental maturity), and stature (That's physical maturity), and in favor with God (That's spiritual maturity), and man (That's social maturity)". Here is the Christ like model for you and me; a well rounded and balanced life.
In Philippians 1:6 the Apostle Paul said, "I am confident of this very thing, that the Holy Spirit who has begun a good work in you, through regeneration, will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ". Then, in I John 3:2,3 it tells us that when Christ comes for us that, "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is". This does not mean we will become little gods, but that we will be like Him in all His moral glory; all God's moral attributes will be fully developed in us, perfectly. Then, in I Thessalonians 5:24 it says, "Faithful is He that calls you, who also will perform it". Finally, in Hebrews 13:5,6 the Lord tells us, "I will never leave you nor forsake you, so that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, why should I fear, what can mankind do unto me?" All these promises are based on John 3:16, "That God so loved each one of us, that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, might not perish but have eternal life". What a model for self esteem, worth, and dignity in life.
Our response to the foundation of eternal life in Christ that every Christian enjoys, is found in the following verses.
In I Peter 2:2 and II Peter 3:18, there is the admonition for every child of God to grow to spiritual maturity. Once a person enters the family of God, the primary motivating factor that carries on through life is spiritual growth. This is a constant admonition.
Unlike the world, which is interested in producing, climbing the ladder of success, and obtaining material wealth through greed and power, God is primarily interested in the development of our personhood (Being). In II Corinthians 8:12 it says, "For if the willingness is there, the gift (i.e. giving of one's self to God's control) is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have".
Furthermore, since each person is a unique creation of God, and there are no two people alike, God does not wish us to compare ourselves to each other, as the world does. He tells us in II Corinthians 10:12, "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise". God so loves each one of us as individuals, uniquely fashioned according to His will, and endowed with His Holy Spirit, that we have all we need in Him to develop as human beings, with love, security, and a sense of well being, because of all He has done and is doing for us.
In Romans 8:28-30 we have God's model of provision for His children, which He has programmed in our behalf, even before He created us. Therefore, in His eternal plan, all these areas that we need for our personal development and security are set.
Notice how all these things work out in Scripture:
1) Justification by faith is the model of God's ACCEPTANCE of us (Rom. 5:1,8). Jesus provided the perfect MODEL (Luke 2:52).
2) Sanctification (See Chap. 20 for explanation ) of life is the LIMITS of God's WILL for us in the Bible (Rom. 12:1,2; I Thess. 4:7; II Tim. 2:19).
3) Glorification is the ultimate and complete FREEDOM that will be ours, when we arrive in Heaven. We are in process now, through our sanctification (Maturation). Phil.1:6; I John 3:2.
The theology of Salvation fits the development of a positive sense of personhood.
Conclusion: In life, success divided by expectation equals one's perceived value of life. If one's success exceeds one's expectation, then one's perceived value of self is great. If one's success in life is less than the expectation, then the value of life is diminished. If we use this formula in the Biblical sense we see a positive perception not only in this life, but in the one to come.
The ultimate success of the Christian is Heaven (I Peter 1:3; I Thess. 4:13-18). Our expectation or hope in this life is a struggle to maturity (Rom. 5:2-4). Therefore, since the struggle in this life will be rewarded with eternal life, and a perfect environment throughout eternity with the Lord, our perceived value to us, here and now should be "Fullness of life" (John 10:10).
That is why the Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:18, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us". That is why the Apostle noted in Romans 8:38, 39 that nothing could separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. God's principles applied to each Christian, by the power of the Holy Spirit, not only provide peace and security in this life, but an assured hope beyond the grave, with an eternity to be spent with our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. What a life, and what a hope.
Fade, fade, each earthly joy, Jesus is mine;
Break every tender tie, Jesus is mine.
Dark is the wilderness, earth has no resting place;
Jesus alone can bless, Jesus is mine.
Tempt not my soul away, Jesus is mine;
Here would I ever stay, Jesus is mine.
Perishing things of clay, born but for one brief day,
Pass from my heart away, Jesus is mine.
Farewell ye dreams of night, Jesus is mine;
Lost in this dawning bright, Jesus is mine.
All that my soul has tried, left but a dismal void;
Jesus has satisfied, Jesus is mine.
Chapter 16 - To Be Or Not To Be
(Performance vs. Character)
Everyone desires to come to wholeness and enjoy the fullness of life. How that is achieved throughout one's time in this world is quite another matter, and depends upon a number of variables in each person's life.
Principally there are two general ways by which this is attained: 1) The self-centered way, by design of the individual, and 2) God's way and His will for His child. It is up to each Christian to determine which way to follow. There are consequences both good and bad , depending upon one's choice.
Life today with its accomplishments is based primarily on one's performance, with the results being reward or lack thereof. The emphasis is to do better than the other person. This gives a false sense of security, since the standards are constantly shifting. In school there is achievement through grades and advancement. In work advancement comes by doing a better job and then promotion, with salary increase, the rise up the corporate ladder, and ultimate success. Society values achievement, acceptability, respect, and honors those who attain them.
All of this is contrary to God's plan for His children (Prov. 14:12; Isa. 55:8). He is not as concerned with what one does, so much as He is with who one is; that is, with a person's being, not his accomplishments (Rom. 8:29; Col. 3:10; II Cor. 3:18). In God's eyes each individual is a unique person. God's principles are applicable for everyone, yet individually applied by the Holy Spirit to each person. The Bible never compares a person with a person, but each one is compared with God's standards (II Cor. 10:12).
In the world of today, with its constant stress, and the emphasis upon achievement, there are valuable results in following God's plan for us, rather than the model that the world imposes. Primarily, God's way produces much less stress, for there is not the strain to measure up; we are accepted by Him, unconditionally. The significant elements in scripture are to: "Rest in the Lord", (Ps.37:7; 62:1); "Abide in Him", (John 15:7); "Trust Him", (Ps. 37:4,5; Prov. 3:5; I Tim. 4:10); "Grow in Him", (I Peter 2:2; II Peter 3:18). The results are found in Matt. 11:28-30, "Come unto me all you that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you - - for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light".
We hear of people having a feeling of low self esteem, lack of confidence, and many insecurities. The world's model for life has produced this, with all the problems that follow. God's model provides fullness of life, and inner peace, even in a world of tribulation. The result is a sense of security, not in one's self, but in God's indwelling and fulfilling His word in us. The Christian can enjoy a sense of well being and wholeness.
Parents can instill these truths in their children, to provide a growing sense of security, that will enable them to become useful adults, and to counteract the influence of the world and peer pressure. There is nothing better for a child than unconditional love from parents, and a Christian heritage. The resulting security comes from love, encouragement, acceptance, affirmation, discipline, and spiritual modeling by Christian parents.
There are three basic passages of scripture to guide us in following God's pattern of fullness and wholeness: Joshua 1:8, which shows us how we can become prosperous, in God's measurement not mankind's, and how we can attain unto good success; Psalm. 1:2,3, where meditating on the truths of the Bible will produce life fulfilling "fruit"; and Romans 8:6, shows that by way of contrast, "to be self centered is death, but to be God centered is life and peace".
In scripture there are three "bones" that we would do well to follow: the "Wishbone" - "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart" (Ps. 37:4); the "Jawbone" - "Speak Lord, for your sevant hears" (I Sam. 3:9); and the "Backbone" - "Watch, stand fast in the faith" (I Cor. 16:13).When one follows God's plan for life, there is fullness and abundance.
May the mind of Christ my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling,
All I do and say.
May the word of God dwell richly,
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph,
Only through His power.
May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus,
As I onward go.
Chapter 17 - Toward A Christian Philosophy of Life
In II Timothy 1:7 it says, "For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind".
Power - To live constructively
Love - To live sacrifically
A Sound Mind - To live reasonably
The question is, how do we live reasonably in life, which then relates to one's philosophy of life? From the ancient Greek philosophers came the questions: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? Today, the same questions confront each individual, which a person has a personal responsibility to seriously consider. Why? Because one's philosophy of life is the track upon which one runs that directs us, and gives fullness of life or not. That is why it is important for each one to have a well thought out philosophy (i.e. worldview) of life.
I. The Reasoning - Every person starts with basic assumptions in life. Assuming that one accepts the Bible as a revelation from God to mankind, and as an objective guide for understanding life, let us consider some basic assumptions.
1) All truth is God's truth. The truth of the Bible tells us that God created mankind; Spirit, Soul, and Body (I Thess.5:23). The Spirit is the life that we have from God, the Soul is our psyche (i.e. emotions, mind, will), and the body is our flesh. Therefore, the basic assumption must be, that God who created us, should know best how we operate in life, to give us the fullness we desire. He has given us this information in His revealed Word, the Bible.
The Bible is to the person somewhat like the automobile handbook is to the car. It is the manual of operations to help us run the car efficiently. So, God has given us a spitiual manual of operations, so that we enjoy the fullness of life (John 10:10). The Bible is the genesis and sourcebook of understanding mankind, his life, his emotions/will, and his body.
2) The best understanding of a God directed philosophy of life and the psychology of well being for wholeness of life, comes from an understanding of people, as illustrated in the Biblical characters, with God's principles woven into the fabric of human nature. God's principles are always perfect, as coming from a holy God. But, He takes us where He finds us, less than perfect, and elevates us to a positional perfection in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6), and gives to us of the Holy Spirit to re- characterize our lives, that our behaviors may be brought into line with our position in Christ. This takes a life time of work to achieve, in the life of the Christian.
This is accomplished by our allowing the Holy Spirit to take what we read in the Bible, as we see the struggle of God's people illustrated, and accepting the principles that arise out of human interaction with God. Though the people of the Bible lived in a different environmental context than we do (i.e. they live in an agrarian society and we in an esoteric, complex one) human nature has remained quite constant, so that the principles are constant. If we replace the human illustrations of the past, with a modern day one, the principles remain. It is these principles that we should know, understand, and apply to our lives, if we desire to know God's best for us, and to lead a full life.
II. The Problem - The basic problem that exists between modern humanistic philosophy/psychology and the Bible/Christian points of view is that the humanist evaluates mankind through a different "grid" or "filter" than does God. This skews mankind's perception of himself. Note some differences between the two:
1) Philosophy - Mankind is basically good
Bible - Mankind basically sinful(Self Centered)
See - Jeremiah 17:9
2) Philosophy - No objective criteria as to what is good or normal
Bible - Biblical objective for normalcy
3) Philosophy - Subjective (Self/Ego/I)
Bible - Objective (God centered)
The conclusion to this is that modern day philosophy is basically a distortion of the understanding of personality, and a trial and error method of correcting mankind's problems.
The Christian should not shy away from understanding philosophy or psychology just because it does not square with the Bible. But, the Christian needs to gain a proper perspective of both philosophy and psychology from the Biblical point of view. The basic need is first to know the principles of the Word of God, then the study of philosophy and psychology, sifting them through the grid of God's Word, the Bible. This will give one an objective God centered view of the personality of mankind.
III. The Biblical Resolution - The New Testament book of Colossians is God's revelation of the philosophy for mankind. The primary passage is Colossians 1:24 - 2:10.
In this section, the Apostle Paul is speaking of three mysteries, relating to mankind. (Note: The word "Mystery" does not mean something mysterious, as we might think, but something that previously has been divinely hidden, now divinely revealed). The first mystery is in Col. 1:24-26, the mystery of the CHURCH, in which God in the Old Testament dealt with Israel, now He is dealing with the body of Christians, spoken of as the "Church", which spiritually speaking is His body of believers here on earth.
The second mystery is that of the CHRISTIAN in Colossians 1:27, in which the revelation of God has gone out to all mankind telling us that the salvation we have in Christ, is that which transforms us into the glory (i.e. moral qualities) of God Himself. See also Romans 10:13,14.
Finally, in Colossians 2:2 we have the mystery of CHRIST, "In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge". See also II Peter 1:3. This refers to the fact that all the Christian needs for life and Godliness is found in the Lord Jesus Christ, as seen in His Word, the Bible.
In Colossians 2:8 there is a warning concerning humanistic philosophy, which the Apostle notes is, "After the elements of the world, and not after Christ". Conversely, we see in I Corinthians 2:9-14 that for the Christian, God through the Holy Spirit reveals that which He wants us to know, "That we might know the things that are freely given to us of God". Furthermore, he points out in verse 14 that the Christian has God given discernment to know right from wrong, good from bad, and this evaluation is from God Himself, based upon the principles found in the Bible.
The conclusion to one's searching for reality in life, through a Biblically thought out philosophy, is found in Colossians 2:9,10, "For in Him (Christ) dwells all the fullness of God in bodily form. And, you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principalities and power". God is over all, in all, and by Him all things are held together (Col. 1:16-19). Wholeness in life comes through one accepting regeneration from God, willingly being submissive to the Holy Spirit's re- characterizing the life, and formulating one's worldview based on the principles of the Bible.
An excellent model is seen in Jesus Christ, as stated in Luke 2:52, "And Jesus increased in WISDOM, and STATURE, and in favor with GOD, and in favor with MAN". Wisdom is mental maturity, stature is physical maturity, favor with God is spiritual maturity, and favor with mankind is social maturity. Here was a perfectly balanced model of life, after which we would do well to pattern our lives.
In II Corinthians 4:6 we read, "For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory (His moral qualities) of God in the face of Jesus Christ", that we might pattern our lives after Him, and come to wholeness of life, according to God's pattern for us. God then will guarantee fullness of life to us (John 10:10).
O soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.
Through death into life everlasting,
He passed and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion,
For more than conquerors we are.
His Word shall not fail you, He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect Salvation to tell.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Chapter 18 - THE Normal Christian Life - Philippians
God's Word, the Bible, has three foundational essentials, that He desires everyone to know and understand: 1) The entrance and problem of SIN, 2) The need for and the way of SALVATION, and 3) The understanding of SANCTIFICATION of life (See Chap. 2 for discussion of these three essentials). The third of these refers to holy living, which once a person becomes a Christian, is the primary and foremost element of the Christian life.
The world is concerned with physical/mental/social maturity, whereas God is primarily interested in our spiritual maturity along with the others (Luke 2:52). Philippians is the objective, authoritative book on spiritual and emotional maturity for the Christian. It was written by our creator; who better understands us, and how we develop in life? There are four basic elements, one in each chapter of the book.
I. Chapter 1 - The Principle of the Normal Christian Life: The key to the basic principle of the Christian life is in Phil. 1:21, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain". This displays the TRUST that the child of God has in Him. This does not mean that we live for Christ, but that we are better off dead, because we are then with Him. No, God did not create us to die, but to live, and in our living to be totally dedicated to His will for us (Gal. 2:20). Our commitment for living for Him should be so all consuming, that if God took us home to Heaven, we would be with Him, which is even better.
For the Christian this answers the problem of PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION in life. Every person desires to be identified with someone or something. Many are constantly searching for meaning in life, and often shifting their focus, which does not produce stability, whereas God wants us to be totally identified with Him, which provides security and fullness of life.
Psychologically, this commitment and concentration of life provides avoidance of FEAR of the future. One's life is totally given over to God's control, and He is sovereign over the world, so that He is guiding and caring for His children (Ps.37:3-7,23,34; Heb.13:5,6; I Peter 5:7). It also gives HOPE to the Christian, which is both satisfying and fulfilling. From God's point of view, this principle is quite normal and balanced for every child of His. The displays our AFFECTION for Him.
II. Chapter 2 - The Pattern of the Normal Christian Life: A pattern is a guide, and God desires that we pattern our lives after the Lord Jesus Christ. The key verse in this chapter is 2:5, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus". If He is our pattern, and we allow the Holy Spirit to re-characterize our lives after Him, this shows the ONENESS we have with Jesus Christ. He stated that He came not to do His will, but the will of the Father who sent Him (John 5:30).
Therefore, as Christ patterned His life after that of His Father, we are to pattern our lives after Him.
This helps answer one's problem of PERSONAL DISPOSITION of life. Since we all have time and energy in life, how do we dispose of it, so that we gain the fullness that we desire. Here is the pattern. God is the guarantor to us, that if we use our personal resources of talents/time/energy/etc. to serve Him, then when we arrive at the end of life we will be able to say, I have had a full and productive life.
Psychologically, this gives one ABSOLUTE GUIDANCE for life (Rom. 12:1,2). Furthermore, it gives us a PERFECT MODEL after whom we can pattern our lives. When we look to others as models, we usually find some detrimental aspect about them that eventually brings some disappointment to us. But, when we look to Jesus Christ, there is no disappointment in Him. On Him we can depend totally, for ACCEPTANCE and AFFIRMATION of life.
III. Chapter 3 - The Passion of the Normal Christian Life: In life we all experience emotions, which are quite normal. In this chapter we understand how to exercise our emotions in the manner that God desires, so that we are able to experience the full range of them, in a balanced way. For a Christian to enjoy emotions is to respond with APPRECIATION to God for His fulfilling in us His will, which gives EXPECTATION (hope) to the child of God.
The key in this chapter are verses 3:13,14,20. The Apostle Paul, recounting his own experiences in the past as an employee of Rome placing Christians into prison, and now preaching to them as an Apostle of the Lord, was able to say that though he had not arrived in life said, "This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus". One can easily understand that he could have had negative emotions of past behaviors, instead was able to say by the Grace of God that he looked ahead, rather than allowing the past to overwhelm him.
The lesson by illustration, to us today is clear: We need to forget those wrong behaviors of the past, which we have confessed to God, who has forgiven and forgotten (I John 1:9), and keep our eyes on Him and ahead, and press on in life. I believe that one of the greatest designs of Satan against the Christian, knowing that he can't take our Salvation away from us (Eph.2:8,9), is to overburden us with false guilt because of past failures. There are times when every Christian needs to tell Satan to, "bug off, I don't owe you anything; I owe God everything", and to realize that all we are, all we have, and every breath we take is by the Grace of God. Even the Apostle Paul noted that, "In Him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28).
Proper emotions, guided by the Holy Spirit, through the principles of God's Word, will answer the problem of PERSONAL PRIORITY in life. Since we all priortize our lives, to some degree, arranging one's life in this manner will provide fullness of life, balanced emotions, hope for the future, and provide a goal toward which one can work with assurance of completion. In I John 3:2 it says, "We know that when He shall appear (i.e. the coming of Jesus Christ for the Christians) we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is". What a HOPE and what ASSURANCE
IV. Chapter 4 - The Power of the Normal Christian Life: In Phil. 4:13 it says, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me". This shows the HELP we have in Him. This provides for the Christian ACHIEVEMENT in life, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. And, it answers the problem of PERSONAL SECURITY in life.
One of the greatest resources a person can have is personal security in life. Much of this comes through learned behaviors from proper parental modeling and affirmation. In addition to these factors, security can be enhanced through spiritual maturity of life. This chapter provides that understanding. It even helps an insecure person to come to security of life, if one will accept the principles in this chapter at face value, and live them out on a daily basis. In Heb. 13:5,6 it says, "For He (the Lord) has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you, so that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper and I will not fear, what can man do unto me?"
Psychologically, this gives one a sense of ASSURANCE in life, as well as a sense of POWER. Phil. 4:19 tells us, "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus". All of God's resources for our personal spiritual development and fullness of life are ours for the taking. What more can be said; what more can we ask; what more do we need?
To conclude the principles of the normal Christian life, the Apostle Paul leaves us with the formula for the secret of PEACE in life: Phil. 4:6,7, "Do not be disturbed about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication (i.e. lay it on the Lord) with thanksgiving, let your requests be known unto God. And, the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, shall surround your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus".
Evan Hopkins once said a Christian is one who is: "Intellectually convinced, that is mental maturity; who is morally convicted, that is emotional maturity; and who is spiritually converted, that is scriptural maturity". This is God's design for each of His children.
Fight the good fight with all thy might,
Christ is thy strength, and Christ thy right;
Lay hold on life, and it shall be,
Thy joy and crown, eternally.
Run the straight race, through God's good grace,
Lift up thine eyes, and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.
Cast care aside, lean on thy guide,
His boundless mercy, will provide;
Trust, and thy trusting soul shall prove,
Christ is its life, and Christ its love.
Faint not nor fear, His arms are near,
He changeth not, and thou art dear;
Only believe, and thou shalt see,
That Christ is all in all, to thee.
Chapter 19 - The Neutral Area of Life - Romans 14
Though the Bible has specific principles for the Christian, that constitute what God has given as guidelines for proper living, there is a vast area unprescribed as to whether these behaviors are right or wrong. This is commonly known as the "gray" area of life, which has become controversial among Christians. It is this area that has provoked the greatest misunderstanding within the church.
Romans 14 is the chapter written to provide for us basic principles that act as a guideline to help us make the proper decisions, so that our lives are spiritually enhanced, rather than adversely affected. Rather than call this the "gray" area, we should refer to it as the "neutral" area, until a decision is made as to whether it is proper or not for the Christian.
God could easily have listed in His Word every controversial element, and prescribed it for us as to behaviors, but as a loving and wise Heavenly Father He wants us to mature spiritually, and be able to make the proper decisions of life accordingly. Therefore, God has provided principles upon which we are able to make decisions that are not only right according to God's standards, but personally beneficial to us. It is somewhat analogous to the parent/child relationship. Good parenting does not prescribe every decision for children as they develop, but gives the responsibility to the child, in an incremental manner as the child grows, so that personal responsibility for decisions becomes a part of the maturing process. Just as every parent has ultimate veto power over bad choices of the child, in order for protection, so God can veto our decisions for our good. Also, when we willfully go against God's principles, He does punish us to bring us back into the way of Holiness (See Heb. 12:10,11).
In this chapter there are three guiding principles to help us come to the right decisions. As we evaluate these principles it is important to ask ourselves concerning the decision made on any or all of them; will it enhance or detract from our spiritual maturity? The reason for this is that God wants to allow us to come to Spiritual maturity through making right decisions according to His Word and will for us. The process itself is part of the maturing. The guideline for us is the enhancing or detracting of that maturation process.
I. The Vertical Principle - Romans 14:8. This principle has to do with one's relationship to God. It requires one to consider that which is entered into or indulges in, as to how it will affect his relationship with the Lord; will it help or hinder that relationship? Since as Christians, we belong to God by the right of divine redemption (I Cor. 6:19,20) it is important that we make no decision that would adversely affect our relationship with Him.
II. The Inward Principle - Rom. 14:12. This principle has to do with one's self, as to the effect the decision has on his life. The question here is, does it build the Christian up spiritually, or does it tear one down? Since maturity in Christ is the primary and foremost desire of God in the lives of His children (See: I Peter 2:2 and II Peter 3:18), it is important to evaluate indulgences in the context of how it affects the individual.
III. The Horizontal/Outward Principle - Rom. 14:13. This principle relates to the responsibility each Christian has to others. The Christian has two types of people with whom to relate: 1) The fellow Christian, and 2) The unregenerate person to whom one is to be a testimony.
In relation to a fellow Christian, one is not to be a stumbling block to that person's spiritual development, but to be a positive, building example so that others may see the character of the Lord Jesus Christ in one's life and behaviors.
As to the unregenerate person, the Christian is to be a testimony of righteousness, so that the individual may be desirous of becoming a Christian. Therefore, the Christian must consider as to that which he indulges in, does it help or hinder the testimony of the Lord to that person?
IV. Postscripts to Amplify the Principles - Rom.14:14-23. In the remainder of the chapter, there are a number of elements to help one understand how to apply the principles, as well as answering questions that may arise from the application of the principles.
As human beings we realize that it is impossible to please everyone at all times, since we inherently look at things differently. Therefore, if we are to be careful of how we judge things in the neutral area, how can we be assured that which ever way we decide, we won't offend someone. This is true, and this is why God has given to us of the Holy Spirit, to give us wisdom to know how to apply these principles, so that we will have the mind of Christ in our decisions (James 1:5). When we earnestly desire to follow the Biblical principles, and allow the Holy Spirit to apply them to the decision making process, then we can be assured of God that whatever the outcome will be, it will be the right one according to His will for us. In this we can rest, even with the knowledge that we can't make perfect judgments.
Verse 14 points out that in the "neutral" area there is nothing unclean or wrong, per se, but that which the Christian considers to be wrong, to him it is wrong, but not necessarily in itself, nor to another Christian. In the neutral area it could mean that at certain times or places the decision could go either way, and this is precisely why God did not specify absolutely certain decisions.
An excellent illustration of this is seen in a missionary family who went to another country. They included the game of checkers for their children to play. But, when they arrived in that country they found that the Christians were aghast that they would allow the children to play checkers, since that game was used for gambling purposes in that country. So, the missionaries put the game away while they were there, but did allow their children to play the game when they were on furlough. To apply the principle of the neutral area in this manner would be understood that the game of checkers in itself is neutral, not inherently wrong, but the association of its use to gambling would cause some to stumble, when they saw missionaries children playing. So, in order to have a beneficial testimony to the natives of that country the missionaries put the game away. When they came home they allowed their children to play the game, since in this country checkers is not normally associated with gambling. In this way they were able to make a proper decision based on Biblical principles.
Verse 15 explains to the Christian that just because one evaluates something to be all right according to Biblical principles, does not necessarily give one the right to use their liberty that might adversely affect another person (See I Cor. 8:1-13). As Christians we are to exercise our liberty in love for one another, and be mindful of their weaknesses or immaturity. As verse 16 notes, "Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil".
Verse 17 points out that the neutral area which may be evaluated differently by Christians is not the essential element in God's kingdom (i.e. the rightness or wrongness of a thing), for the kingdom of God is not essentially determined by these things. Rather, His kingdom is evaluated in our lives by RIGHTEOUSNESS, and PEACE, and JOY in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, whatever we judge in the neutral area should be done to, "Make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification" (v.19), rather than selfishly doing as we please. Our responsibility to fellow Christians should be to build one another up in the faith.
Verse 20,21 explains the fact that God's work is not destroyed by our wrongful behaviors, when we judge wrongly, but we should be careful that we do not become a stumbling block to someone else. Though we may judge a thing to be all right, it may not be so in other's point of view. Thus, we must decide which is more important, do as we please and maybe hurt a fellow Christian, or be sensitive to their needs and minister to their development as a Christian. In Romans 8:18, the Apostle Paul exhorts us to realize that the sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be ours when we arrive in heaven.
Verse 22,23 concludes the Biblical admonition on our judgment of the neutral area by saying that if we judge a thing to be all right, then we are to enjoy it, but if we have any doubts as to any one or all three principles, then it is not of faith, and we should refrain from indulging. For "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin".
In Romans 15:1,2 there is a concluding admonition based on the principles of chapter 14, and that is, "We who are strong (i.e. in mature faith) ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up".
The Bible stands like a rock undaunted,
Mid the raging storms of time;
Its pages burn with the truth eternal,
And they glow with a light sublime.
The Bible stands like a mountain towering,
Far above the wrecks of men;
Its truth by none ever was refuted,
And destroy it they never can.
The Bible stands, and it will forever,
When the world has passed away;
By inspiration it has been given,
All its precepts I will obey.
The Bible stands every test we give it,
For its author is divine;
By grace alone I expect to live it,
And to prove it and make it mine.
Chapter 20 - The Threefold Elements of Sanctification
There are two words in the Bible, Sanctify and Holy, that refer to the same definition. These two words basically may be defined as being set apart from sin, and set apart unto God. The fundamental idea is separation, and has to do with separation from sin. Sanctification or Holiness of life has a threefold aspect: 1) Positional, which is past, through the work of Christ in our redemption, and confers upon the Christian a perfect position, as a child of God (Heb.10:10); 2) Progressive, which is the present work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, bringing one's character development into conformity with his position in Christ, and this is experiential throughout one's lifetime (II Tim.3:16,17; Col. 1:28; II Peter 3:18); 3) Perfection, which is future and will be completed when the Christian arrives in heaven, and then his character behaviors will be as perfect as his position is in Christ (I Thess.3:12,13; Phil.1:6; I John 3:2,3).
I. Positional Sanctification: When Christ provided Salvation/Redemption for us through His work on the cross it set every believer apart unto God as His own possession (Heb.13:12). This was accomplished in the past, and confers upon every believer a positional standing before God as a child of His. Christ's work propitiated (i.e. actually cared for sins - Rom.3:25; I John 2:2) for the sins of every believer.
The nature of this work is that it was a finished work of Christ, and was completed when He died on the cross. Hebrews10:10 states, "By the will of God we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all". In Hebrews 10:11,12 it notes that under the old covenant the priests stood daily offering repeated sacrifices which could never take away sins. But, Christ made "one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God", thereby signifying His completed work of our Redemption. His sacrifice needs never to be repeated, because it took care of the sin problem, once for all.
This Sanctification is not dependent on any perfection of our own character or conduct. It is positional, and as such sets the believer apart from a sinful world, in that one moves out of Satan's family into God's family. It sets one apart forever unto God as His own possession (I Peter 2:9), and confers on us a perfect positional holiness. Every Christian is considered as perfect in the sight of God, through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:14).
This sanctification gives defiled (through sin) saints an entrance into the very presence of God (John 9:31; Heb.4:14-16). Furthermore, it is the present possession of all believers (Acts 26:18). What should Christians response be to this? Simply believe. The work that Christ did for the believer is appropriated to us when we accept Him (John 6:27- 29). It is a finished work, we need only to accept it.
II. Progressive Sanctification: The nature of progressive sanctification is the present work of the Holy Spirit, whereby the believer is progressively being set apart from sin, and brought toward personal perfection. In contrast to Positional Sanctification which is a once for all setting apart as a child of God, Progressive Sanctification is an experiential progress whereby one is being set apart from sinful ways, and re-characterized by the Holy Spirit through the Word, to make the child "fit" to be God's own possession.
The method by which this is accomplished is through the instrumentality of the Word of God (John 17:17; Phil. 2:12,13). The Bible serves as an instrument of Sanctification in three ways: 1) The Holy Spirit uses the Word to reveal our sinful condition (James 1:23-25); 2) The Holy Spirit uses the Word to cleanse us from our sinful habits and practices of sin(Eph.5:26).It is the Word that washes away our daily defilement.
Some question the need for this daily defilement, because doesn't the blood of Christ cleanse us from all sin? Yes (I John 1:7), but day by day we sin, and we need to confess those sins, and the Word shows us of this need (I John 1:9). Also, all sin has two aspects; 1) Guilt and 2) Habit. The blood of Christ cleanses us from the guilt of sin, and the Bible cleanses us from the habit of sin. The blood deals with guilt, the Bible with our daily pollution.
An excellent illustration of this is seen in the feet washing of John 13. According to the custom of the day, when the Disciples came into the upper room at the Passover, they had washed their feet prior to eating the meal. During the meal, Jesus began to wash the Disciples feet. Peter remonstrated with Him as to why He was doing it, since they all had their feet washed. Christ's action had a higher spiritual significance than just the physical act, for when Peter questioned his actions, Jesus told Peter that if he would not allow the Lord to wash his feet, that he would have no part with the Lord. Peter replied that if that be the case he wanted the Lord to give him a whole bath. To this the Lord replied, "He that is bathed (i.e. a bath) needs not a whole bath, except his feet". What Christ was telling Peter by this illustration was that Salvation cleanses one wholly, but that because of the daily defilement through sin we need the cleansing power of the Word to overcome those sins.
I fondly remember a railroad worker who was a member of my father's church, testifying in prayer meeting. He told the people that when he came home at night from working in the dirty railroad yards, that before he took a bath he sat down and read a chapter in the Bible. The dirty language of the day had polluted his mind, and it was more important to cleanse his mind from the daily defilement of the world, than it was to cleanse his body.
Our Salvation in Christ, through His blood, has cared for our reconciliation with God, and now we are His child. But, as we travel through life we acquire the dirt of the world, for which we constantly need the cleansing of our minds by the Word of God through the Holy Spirit. This results in a progressive transformation into the likeness of Christ, by transforming our character.
The third way by which the Bible serves as an instrument of our progressive sanctification is the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to transform us into the "Image" of Christ. The image of Christ is not a physical likeness, but a transformation into the moral qualities or attributes of God Himself. This is the re-characterization of the Holy Spirit, which is progressively making us fit for Heaven.
In II Corinthians 3:18 it says, "But we all, with unveiled face beholding in a mirror the moral qualities of God, are transformed into those same qualities - as from the Holy Spirit of God". In other words, the Holy Spirit not only shows us our sinful condition, as a child of God, but He uses the Word to cleanse us from our daily sinful ways, and re-characterizes us into the moral likeness of God Himself. The result is that because of this character transformation, the Christian lives out in daily life, what the Apostle Paul called, "The fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22-24). This is progressive Sanctification, which is a life long work; a willingness on our part, and the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit to accomplish it. This is why the Apostle Paul stated in Philippians 1:6, "I am confident of this very thing; that the Holy Spirit who has begun a good work in you, will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ".
This Sanctifying work of the Word implies three things:
1) That we will read and heed the Word of God; 2) That we will submit our lives to its cleansing power, and 3) That we will see Christ in the Word.
Sanctification by the Word is based on Sanctification by the blood of Christ, and is inseparable from it. One has no sanctification by the Word without Sanctification by the blood (John 17:9). Christ set Himself apart to die for us, that we through Him might be sanctified through His Word (John 17:17).
The Bible gives us motives for our progress in Sanctification, since it requires an active response on our part. God presents these motives to lead us in the way of holiness. They are: 1) God's own Holy nature - what God is - I Peter 1:15,16; Phil. 2:12,13; 2) God's grace to us - what He has done for us - Rom. 12:1; II Cor. 8:12; and 3) God's promises to us - what He will do for us - II Cor. 6:17,18, 7:1.
Then there are three results that accrue to the child of God as we submit our lives to His cleansing and transforming power: 1) It will help us to control our fleshly lusts and appetites -I Thess. 4:2-7; 2) It will fit us for God's service - II Tim. 2:21; 3:16,17; and 3) It provides us fellowship with Christ -John 15:3,4. Our attitude toward all that He has done, is doing, and will yet do for us, His children is to OBEY.
III. Perfect Sanctification: This setting apart of the Christian is a work of completion, wherein God will wholly finish the process of our progressive sanctification. See: I Thess. 3:12,13; and I Thess. 5:23,24.
As to time, it will be accomplished at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ for His children. At that time He will completely finish the work of regeneration and character transformation that is currently going on in our lives through the Holy Spirit (Phil. 1:6). Note: Heb. 12:22,23 - All God's children are "righteous people" now, and someday we will be "made perfect".
The results are wonderful: We shall be made like the Lord Jesus Christ, in all His moral attributes, spiritually, morally, and physically perfect. And, we will have an unhindered vision of Christ Himself (I John 3:2). Today, we behold Him through the "mirror" of the Bible (II Cor. 3:18), but our "vision" is often blurred by our own sin. Then we shall see Him, "face to face". There is no chance that it might not be done, for it is pledged by the very faithfulness of God Himself (I Thess.5:24; Rom.4:25; John 14:19; I Cor. 15:12-20).
The present effect of our future sanctification should compel us to be better Christians here and now (I John 3:3). No one can be ready for Christ's coming, unless we are looking for His return (II Peter 3:10- 14). Our personal responsibility is outlined for us in II Corinthians 6:14 - 7:1. Justification (i.e. our declared righteousness from God) cares for our right standing before God, as His child; Sanctification cares for our holy living. In II Corinthians 7:1 it says we are to, "Purify ourselves from everything that contaminates the body and spirit, maturing holiness out of reverence for God". This does not mean we can do it ourselves, through our own strength, but as we submit ourselves to His cleansing power. Note: I John 2:15-17.
Four final admonitions on Sanctification:
1. Read the Word of God
2. Obey it
3. See Christ in the Word
4. Look for His coming again
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt;
Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty Cross.
Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.
Chapter 21 - Testing in the Life of the Christian
In John 16:33, Jesus Christ stated, "In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world". Problems are a part of everyday life for all. Christ did not tell Christians He would detour them around the problems, but He did say, "I will never leave you nor forsake you, so that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, why should I fear" (Heb. 13:5,6).
James 1:2 exhorts the Christian to, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds". The word "trials"(NIV) or "temptation"(KJV) should be rendered as "testing". The purpose of the book of James is to show how testing demonstrates the faith of the Christian, in the life that he lives. As we consider this chapter on testing, there are three elements that provide understanding of this difficult aspect of life.
I. There is a service render by God, to the believer, in testing (James 1:2-12). This service has a fourfold teaching element:
1) It is for the maturing of the believer (vss.2-4). When surrounded by trials and tribulations, count it all joy. From a human perspective this seems contrary to normal reaction, but God notes that it is not the trial per se that is the issue, but it is the faith of the believer that is being tested, in order to be strengthened and matured (v.3).
The testing of one's faith is like metal being fired in the crucible; when heated up and the metal becomes molten, then the dirt rises to the top and is ladled off. So, God allows the trials in our lives for separation and refinement. This in turn leads to the maturing of the Christian (v.4), which is the purpose God has in mind. Since He is a God of economy, He never does anything capriciously or willy nilly, but with a specific purpose in mind for each of His children. He never allows any trial in our lives, but what it is for our good and His glory.
2) It promotes the believer's prayer life (vss.5-8). Testing is what the believer lacks, which is wisdom, not knowledge (v.5). Knowledge without wisdom is dangerous; it puffs one up(I Cor.8:1) whereas wisdom helps one discern good from evil (I Cor.2:13,14; Heb. 4:16). God is the source of all true wisdom (v.5) See: Job 28:28.
However, one must ask in Faith, without doubting, hesitation, or selfishness (v.6,7). In verse 8 one is admonished not to be double minded, that is, facing in two directions at the same time (i.e. wanting to do it God's way, at the same time doing it in a selfish way).
3) It puts praise on the lips of the believer (vss.9-11). The lowly person is able to praise, in that he is able to ask of God, just as every other believer (v.9). The rich and mighty, are also able to praise the Lord, in that God loves them through the testing, and to reveal that their security is in the Him, not in their wealth or power.
4) It promises reward to the believer (v.12). The promise is the crown of life, as well as blessing, for when one persists in his faith, even through the trials and tribulations of life, God is the rewarder of them who love Him. A crown is evidence of victory over the testing, and this is an eternal reward.
II. The source of testing is outlined in James 1:13-18. Negatively, God is not the source of testing (v.13). The natural reaction of a person is to cry out against God, when things go bad. Conversely, when things go well there is a tendency to take pride in the accomplishment. In adversity one tends to question God as to why He has done it.
In this section it is important to note that the word rendered temptation/trial has a two fold meaning. As used of Satan or of the Self, it means to allure to sin. As used of God in the life of the individual, it means to test for maturity. The same word is used in two different contexts. The source or context determines the meaning.
In v.13 we note that God's very nature is Holy and good, and He cannot do evil against anyone, nor does He allure anyone to do evil. Verse 14 points out that the allurement to evil comes from either Satan or one's own lustful desires. It is interesting to note that the word "allure"(KJV)/"dragged away"(NIV) in the Greek is the same word that a fisherman uses when he purchases lures to ensnare the fish. Sin is often camouflaged by that which is attractive to the senses, but has a terrible bite. I John 2:15-17, points out the allurement of the world.
From God's perspective, He allows the trials, not to allure us to sin, but to refine and strengthen us. It is our response to the situation that is the key. Do we allow the allurement of the world/flesh/Devil to entice us, like the fish is allured to the hook, or do we trust God to help us through the situation, and thereby become stronger in our faith? God's recommendation in verse 16 is, "Do not be deceived, my dear brothers". The picture here is of two different responses to the temptation: One conquers because of the new nature, the other suffers because of succumbing to the will of the old nature.
The final admonition as to the source of testing is to not fall into sin because of: 1) Our Justification - "He chose to give us birth"(v.18); we are His by divine right (I Cor.6:19,20). 2) Our Sanctification - "Don't be deceived" (v.16); we are to "Grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18). 3) Our Glorification - "First fruits" (v.18); In Romans 8:29,30 our future glorification is already an accomplished fact in the plan of God. Therefore, because of all these promises we have from Him, we should press on, realizing that all is from God, who loved us, sent Christ to redeem us, and has given us of the Holy Spirit to mature us. Someday, he will perfect that which He has begun in us.
III. The Salvation which enables one to overcome temptation (Vss. 19-27). First, we are to know the facts of deliverance from temptation (v.19-21). In verse 19, because of our regeneration we are to be: "Swift to hear God's Word when tempted"; "Slow to speak in judgment"; and "Slow to anger". Unfortunately, many times we do just the opposite, according to the self life: when situations arise, we don't listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to us, we are quick to judge, and quick to anger.
In verse 21 we are admonished because of our sanctification to: "Put away on the outside all moral filth, and on the inside any overflow of wickedness". The vacuum should be filled with the Word of God. Then we are to apply the facts of deliverance from temptation (Vss. 22-25). We are not to be hearers only of the Word, but doers. If we hear and do not do, then we are like a person looking into a mirror, and doing nothing to correct what he sees.
The doer of the Word examines it, then applies it to life's situations, and continues to follow God's Word. In so doing, God blesses that person (See: I Samuel 2:30). Then one can examine the results by comparison to see how one measures up. Two evaluations as to the worth of a Christian's behaviors are given in verses 26,27; 1) Worthless religion is seen in not being able to control one's tongue (i.e. saying one thing and doing another, or being judgmental of others). 2) Valuable Christianity is measured by two criteria: to help others in need, and to keep one's self from worldly contamination.
Therefore, testing in the life of the Christian, is a service from God, to promote one's spiritual maturation, to strengthen one's prayer life, and the result is God's reward when the Christian follows His Word. The final admonition is to, "Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only".
Be still, my soul, the Lord is on thy side,
Bear patiently the cross of grief and pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide,
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul, thy best, thy Heavenly friend,
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul, thy God doth undertake,
To guide the future as He has the past;
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake,
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul, the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul, the hour is hastening on,
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul, when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
Chapter 22 - How To Pray
Next to spiritual food from the Word of God, the important aspect of spiritual development for the Christian is prayer. We must pray because Satan seeks our downfall (Eph.6:12,13). Our Lord prayed (Mark 1;35), it is God's appointed way to receive blessing (James 4:2), and it leads to fullness of Joy (Jn.16:24).
In the immaturity of our faith, one may do poorly in prayer, but as we become more mature we learn to ask for and obtain those things which are more consonant with God's will for us, and thereby ask within His will (I John 5:14; John 15:7).
To help overcome our problems we need to pray. There has never been a sowing of God in the heart of His child, but what there has been an oversowing of Satan. Less time should be spent in trying to straighten out our problems and relationships with each other, and more time in prayer about the problems.
I. The Basis of Prayer: It is the foundation of approach to God (John 16:23). When we pray it is the prompting of our asking (John 14:13,14), and is the first condition of effective asking (I Peter 3:12; John 9:31; I Tim. 2:8). In light of our coming to God in prayer, there should be daily searching (Ps.139:23,24; Ps. 51; I Cor. 11:28-31). Prayer is also the exercise of Faith (Matt. 21:21; Mark 11:24; James 1:6,7; 4:13-15).
It is impossible for one to exercise real faith that God will grant something that is contrary to His expressed will in the Bible, or that we have reason to believe would not be for His glory (i.e. our character transformation into His moral qualities). The Holy Spirit after all, gives us the confidence that we need in asking, and we must be sure that we desire His leading in our prayers (Rom. 8:26;Jude 20; Eph.6:13; James 4:13-15; See esp. Jer. 9:24).
II. The Elements of Prayer: Two conditions are laid down by Christ for prayer (John 15:7): a) If you abide in me, and b) My words abide in you. Effective prayer is seen in I John 3:22. We receive what we ask because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. We cannot effectively pray when we harbor a bitter spirit (Mark 11:25,26).
Our approach to God is seen in a) Heb. 11:6 - "Believe that He is", and b) John 9:31 - "God does not hear (i.e. act upon) sinners, but only those who truly worship Him". Hebrews 10:22 tells us how we should draw near to God. His attitude toward His children is seen in Psalm 34:18 and 51:17, that He hears those who are who are of broken and contrite heart. We have access to God the Father, through the intercessory work of Christ, and by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:13,18; Rom. 8:16-26). Some prayers are lost because we do not seek the Lord's will or search Him out (Jer. 29:13).
A spirit of thanksgiving should accompany all our prayers (I Thess. 5:17,18). A Christian should engage in secret prayers (Matt. 6:6) as well as public prayers (Matt.18:19,20; Heb.10:25). There are a number of ways by which we are robbed of power in our prayers: James 4:3 - because we ask amiss; Ps. 66:18 - due to iniquity in our heart; Ezek. 14:3 - idols in our heart make a stumbling block (Note: an idol is anything that comes between us and God, and takes first place in one's life); Prov. 21:13 - an unwillingness to help others, then God won't help us. Vain repetition in our prayers is especially displeasing to God (Matt. 6:7,8).
Many passages in Scripture explain to us when and how we should pray: Ps. 5:3 - In the morning; Ps. 55:17 - Evening/Morning/Noon; Matt. 26:41 - We are to watch and pray since the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak; Luke 21:36 and Eph.6:18 - Pray always with all supplications; I Thess.5:17 -Pray without ceasing (this means to be in such an attitude before God, that we can be immediately in contact with Him through prayer); Heb. 4:16 - We are to come openly before the throne of Grace; James 5:13 - If any are sick, let them pray; Rom. 12:12 - We are to continue in prayer.
As to what we are to pray for, the Word gives us guidelines for this as well: I Tim. 2:2 - For kings and all those in authority; II Thess. 3:1,2 - For fellow believers; I Tim. 2:1 - For all mankind; Matt. 5:44 - For enemies and those who despise us; Phil. 4:6 - In everything by prayer and supplication; Ps. 51:1-4 - For cleansing from transgressions, iniquity, and sin (See: I John 1:9); James 1:5 - For wisdom; Ps. 19:12 - For cleansing from errors and secret faults; Rev. 22:20 - For the coming of the Lord.
III. Conclusion: The normal order of prayer for the Christian should be directed to the Father, through the cleansing work of Jesus Christ, and by the communion or help of the Holy Spirit (II Cor. 13:14). PRAYER IS THE SOUL'S SINCERE DESIRE.
Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends with God's children;
Help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing, His blessing to seek.
Take time to be Holy, the world rushes on;
Much time spend in secret with Jesus alone;
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
Chapter 23 - A Prophet's Message for Today Habakkuk
This relatively small and insignificant book, written six centuries before the coming of Christ, is probably as up to date as today's newspaper, and with far greater significance; it has come from the hand of God through His Prophet Habakkuk.
Habakkuk prophesied to the country of Judah during the reign of a Godly king, Josiah, but the prophecy would be fulfilled after his departure. The prophecy is "Parabolic" in substance, that is, though it had immediate consequences for Judah, the main thrust of the message is for us today. The essence of Habakkuk's message in Chapter 2 reads like the pages of our daily newspaper, with the authority of God's Word behind the prophecy. Therefore, it is important for every Christian to see what God has to say to us today, through His messenger, Habakkuk.
I. The Prophet's Double Problem (1:2-17). In chapter one the Prophet cried out to God concerning his double problem: "The law is slack, and justice never prevails" (v.4). As we reflect upon the world today, we are able to concur with Habakkuk, and as God's children we ask God, as did the Prophet, Lord what are you going to do about it?
Habakkuk saw the violence and the wickedness in his day, as do we today, and it seemed to him that "Right was on the scaffold, and wrong was on the throne". Just as he was aggravated at conditions in his day, so we are concerned for the spiritual and moral declension we see in today's world. Therefore, the situations then and now are similar. This is why the book of Habakkuk is so pertinent to our understanding of God's dealings with mankind. As God worked a mighty work back then, so God will intervene in the kingdom of mankind, to work His will. Though we do not know God's timing, we can trust and be assured that His program will prevail. It did then, it will now and in the future.This is the message of the Prophet for us today.
God answered Habakkuk's plea in chapter 1:5-11. God's answer to Habakkuk's complaint was, "For I will work a work in your days, which you will not believe, though it be told you" (v.5). In his day God allowed the Chaldeans to overrun Judah, and punish the nation for their wickedness. In our world today we wonder how long God can allow wickedness to prosper until He says, "Enough", and bring catastrophe to mankind because of the present spiritual darkness that encompasses the world. The wheels of God's justice may grind slowly, but they grind surely. God was most gracious and lenient with Israel and Judah over hundreds of years, but He finally brought judgment.
II. God's Divine Principles (2:1-20).The heart of the message of Habakkuk is in chapter 2, which is also the most pertinent for us today, as every aspect of the principles in the chapter pertain to our world today.
As Habakkuk remonstrated with God, he said, "I will watch to see what He will say unto me, and what He shall answer concerning my complaint" (2:1). The Lord answered him with five Woes of Judgment. Note that these woes are very much present with the world of today.
1) "Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion" (2:6). This is unholy ambition, yet this is what runs the world today. People take advantage of others, through any means, in order to gain advantage for themselves. As God looks down on the kingdom of mankind, and sees the wickedness, He hates all of it, so that through the prophet He pronounced a woe upon sinful people.
2) "Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin" (2:9). This is simply covetousness, which is one of the ten commandments. Today, the desire to obtain what someone else has by fair means or foul, because of covetousness, is the order of the day. Then those people want to flee from the degradation they have caused because of the foulness of the result.
3) "Woe to him that builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime" (2:12). Even the world today is appalled at the crime and bloodshed on the streets of our cities and towns. When the "Law is slacked and judgment doth never go forth", we see the results: there is oppression and violence that takes over. The sin of the human heart knows no boundaries. Yet unregenerate mankind knows not how to stop the situation, because it denies Jesus Christ as Lord and master.
4) "Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so he can gaze on their naked bodies" (2:15). Here is immorality that comes from drink and a lack of moral or ethical teaching and behavior. These behaviors are commonplace today, as they were back then, and God will bring people today into judgment as He did then. God's standards of morals are no different today than they were in the Prophet's day.
5) "Woe to him who says to the wood, 'Come to life!' or to lifeless stone, 'Wake up!' (2:19). Here is a judgment pronounced upon idolatry. Though we may not have idols of wood or stone, as they did back there, we have them today in different form. Anything that comes first in a person's life is that one's idol. For the Christian, if something is greater in priority than God in one's life, then that becomes his god. God wants first place in a persons life; anything less than that is idolatry.
Interspersed within these five woes upon the world, God provides three eternal principles that His people can trust even in the midst of the wickedness seen today.
1) God's way of righteousness (2:4), "The just shall live by his faith". This phrase is the foundation for three New Testament epistles: Romans 1:17 - which emphasizes Justification by faith; Galatians 3:11 - which emphasizes how we should live; and Hebrews 10:38 - which is the great book of faith. What God gave the Prophet Habakkuk in his day, as to how he should respond to the wickedness he saw, is the same exercise of faith that we can live by in the world of wickedness today. The Christian can truly live through faith in the faithfulness of God.
2) God's eternal glory (2:14), "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea". Today, mankind is trying to eliminate God from every aspect of life, individually or nationally. But, someday God will bring everything in life, including all mankind, under the judgment seat of Christ (I Cor. 4:5). Then, as King over all the earth, His glory (i.e. His moral attributes) will fill the universe throughout eternity, just like the waters cover the sea. We can count on it (I Thess. 5:24).
3) God's eternal sovereignty (2:20), "But the LORD is in His holy temple, let all the earth be silent before Him". When the sovereignty of God is exercised over all the earth, then and only then, will we have sanctity of life, and serenity in the world. Today, the world is in chaos and turmoil, seeking peace without righteousness. The only way we can have true peace is when we have righteousness, and then there will be peace (Isa.32:17).
III. Habakkuk's Delightful Poem (3:1-19). As a result of God's overwhelming the Prophet with God's eternal principles, so that Habakkuk stood in awe of God's majesty and power, the Prophet writes a most delightful poem in this chapter. The heart of the poem reflects upon the majesty of God in judgment.
IV. The Two Principles of Life. In conclusion, consider well the two principles of life as seen in chapter 2:4 and 2:5. In 2:5 we see the "puffed up" man. He is self centered and conditioned by the circumstances of life. He shall pass. Whereas, in 2:4 we see the "Just" man. He is God centered and conditioned. He shall live. For the Christian the problems of today must be submitted to God in Faith. It is the only way to go in today's world.
Over a hundred years ago there was a French scientist who projected that someday mankind would unlock the key to the atom. He noted than when he did, God would take His great ring of keys off its hook in heaven, come down into the world of mankind and say, "Gentlemen, it is closing time". In the fall of 1942, at the height of World War II, a group of world renown scientists gathered in Chicago, where they succeeded in unlocking the key to the atom. It became known as the "Manhattan Project", and eventuated in the atom bomb that was dropped upon Japan. Over a half a century has passed since then, and it seems as if we can hear God rattling His keys in heaven, about to come in judgment on the world, and say, "Gentlemen, its closing time".
My faith has found a resting place, not in device nor creed
I trust the ever living one, His wounds for me shall plead
I need no other argument, I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me.
Chapter 24 - "Beloved, Be" - II Peter 3
Prophecy (i.e. Eschatology, the doctrine of last things), is God's signature on His sovereignty, and His assurance to mankind of the hope that we have for the future.
The Prophetic principles in II Peter 3 cover what we should consider while we live in an increasingly wicked world. God has an answer to the conflicts we experience, and His program for the future is always related to Holy living. The standard for Holy living is God's Word.
The problem as to why Christians don't follow the Word is outlined in Mark 4:19; 1) The cares of this world, 2) The deceitfulness of riches, and 3) The lust of other things choke the Word, and it becomes unfruitful.
In II Peter 3 there are four principles of admonition to the child of God, as related to Prophetic events that will come. They are captioned by, "Beloved, Be", and the questioned raised is "be...of what?".
I. "Beloved - Be Mindful" (v.1,2) - Of what are we to be mindful? In vv. 1-7 the Apostle answers the question. We are to be mindful of the words which the Prophets of old spoke in God's behalf to Israel, as well as to the words of the Apostles. The reason for being aware and understanding of what God said through them to us, is that in the last days there would be scoffers who would come questioning the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In John 14:3, Jesus told the Apostles He was going back to Heaven, but that He would return to take His children to Heaven with Him. The argument of the scoffers against His coming again would be that over the centuries the world has experienced birth and life and death, followed by continuous rounds of birth/life/death. Therefore, in the future this would continue as it had in the past. Of an understanding of this the Apostle accused the scoffers of ignorance of God's program. He then cites a reference to one of three illustrations to which he previously had outlined.
In II Peter 2:4-6, the Apostle speaks of three instances of what I would call, "The law of first occurrences", in that he cited three situations recorded in the Old Testament that had never happened before in human history, but did. The argument that because Christ has not returned therefore He never will, is contradicted by these three instances that the Apostle cites.
The first of these is in 2:4, where the war in heaven between the Angels headed up by Lucifer and God and His angels, resulted in Lucifer and one third of the Angels being cast out of Heaven. This is cited in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. This had never happened in all of eternal history past, but it did.
In 2:5 there is the second illustration of the law of first occurrences, which was never supposedly to happen, but did. The wickedness that God saw in Noah's day, caused God to tell him to build an ark that he might be saved from the flood that God would bring upon the world. There had never been any rain upon the earth up to that time. God had watered the earth through a mist that went up from the ground. But now God said he was going to let the Firmament (i.e. the clouds and atmospheric heavens) down upon the earth in the form of rain, and flood it. The skeptics of Noah's day jeered him for his faith in God's command. It had never rained before, therefore, it never would, but it did. And, Noah was saved and the rest were drowned (Gen. 2:6; 6:5-8:22).
The third illustration is in 2:6, where God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham's nephew Lot separated himself from his uncle and dwelt in these wicked cities. God sent two angels, as men, to Lot's door and told him to get out, because God was going to bring judgment on the cities in the form of fire. The men of the cities asked Lot if he was going to believe two strangers, and beside that the judgment they promised had never happened before, and therefore, it never would, but it did (Gen. 19:1-25).
Now, in 3:7, the Apostle warns mankind today, that the "Heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men". This world wide catastrophe from God has never happened before, and according to scoffers it never will, but God's word is sure, and judgment is certain. Therefore, of these things, the Apostle is saying, we are to be mindful.
II. "Beloved - Be Not Ignorant" (v.8) - Again, we ask, "Of what?" The reply is, "Be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day". This does not mean that God expands a day to a thousand years, nor does He collapse a thousand years into one day. What is meant is that time is not of the essence with God. He is not bound by a time/space world as we are, but God deals in a program that is not conditioned by time or space.
The Apostle is trying to explain that God has a program for this world and mankind, and that regardless of time, to which we are bound, God's program is not slack as some may think, but that He is long-suffering to all mankind, "Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (v.9). In other words, God loves every person, and in His love and Grace He sent Christ to die for the sins of everyone. The church has been commissioned to carry this message to all the world (Matt. 28:19,20). For the past two thousand years the church has carried out this command, though not perfectly. Only God, in His omniscience, knows who and when the last person will be that accepts God's offer of Salvation. Then Jesus Christ will return for the Christians, as He stated He would. The Christian's response is to not be concerned as to when Christ will return, as much as it is to be ready for it, and in the intervening time to faithfully continue to carry out our commission, and trust Him as to when.
In v.10,12 the Apostle notes that the "Day of the Lord" (i.e. The great day of Jehovah, the covenant keeping God; see Zechariah 14:1-9) will come, in which He will do away with the heavens (i.e. the atmospheric and starry heavens, not the Heaven where God dwells) and earth, because of Satan's contamination of them through sin. They will be replaced with a "New Heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness"(V.13).
This is God's everlasting promise to His children. If we are to live and reign with Him eternally, and this earth will be part of God's eternal Heaven, He would not desire His children to return to a sin polluted environment. Therefore, transformed and perfected Christians will be brought back to a perfect pristine world in order to spend eternity. This is God's promise to His children. God doesn't want us to be ignorant of this understanding while we await His return.
III. "Beloved - Be Diligent (Careful)" (v.14) - Why should we be diligent or careful, and of what? Since we await Christ's return, and we have a goal or commission, our diligence or carefulness is that, "We might be found of Him in serene confidence, free from fears, agitating passions, and moral conflicts" (Amplified Bible).
As we reflect upon our world today, is it not known that fear, guilt, passions, and moral conflicts are all consuming everywhere we turn? In Revelation 9:21, we see the four consuming elements that drive mankind on today are 1) Murders, 2) Drugs (i.e. the word sorceries in the Greek is the word pharmacopoeia, from which we obtain the word pharmacy, or drugs), 3) Immorality and 4) Thefts. The Bible plainly states that mankind will refuse to give them up. Note: II Timothy 3:1,2 which tells us why: mankind is consumed with SELF, and its gratification.
In verse 11 we see God's admonition to the Christian in today's world, "Seeing that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy manner of life and Godliness?" The rhetorical question here is plain; God intends us to keep ourselves "Unspotted from the world" (James 1:27). In light of God's future judgment, it is apparent how He desires that we should live in this wicked world.
IV. "Beloved - Beware" (v.17) - Again we ask the question, "Beware of what?" The verse itself answers the question, that we not be led astray of the error of sinful people and thereby fall from our secure position in Christ. There are two thoughts to consider here: first, that we not allow the things of the world, the flesh, and the Devil to deter us from our spiritual maturity in Christ. Second, that our Salvation is not in question as pertains to our relationship with Christ, but that our fellowship with Him may be broken by our selfish ways. See: Mark 4:19 as to that which interferes with our spiritual growth.
In I John 2:15-17 we see the infusion of this world's system as a hindrance to Christian maturity. Out of this humanistic philosophy comes one's behaviors and character development. The Biblical admonition is, don't fall into this way, "But grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus CHRIST" (v.18). For the Christian this is the most important aspect of life, i.e. coming to spiritual maturity in Christ.
John 1:17 says, "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ". In II Corinthians 4:6 we read, "For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ". What the law of God could not do through the strength of human endeavor, Jesus Christ did by coming into the world, to reveal God to us, through His love and grace. Our response, as Christians, to all this is to refrain from worldly ways and grow in God's grace and in the understanding of Jesus Christ.
Someday my earthly house will fall,
I cannot tell how soon twill be,
But this I know, my all in all,
Has now a place in Heaven for me.
Someday when fades the golden sun,
Beneath the rosy, tinted West,
My blessed Lord will say, "Well done",
And, I shall enter into rest.
And I shall see Him, face to face,
And, tell the story, saved by grace;
And, I shall see Him face to face,
And, tell the story, saved by grace.
Chapter 25 - Heavenly Rewards
I Cor.3:11-15; II Cor.5:10
Christians will never be judged with regard to their eternal Salvation, that is a certainty. But, every Christian will someday be judged according to their works. Salvation itself is a gift of God, not according to one's works (Eph.2:8,9).
The judgment of believer's works will be on the basis of how one has lived for God after becoming a Christian, and the result will be either a reward (called a "crown") or a lack of reward. The believer's sins were judged at the cross of Christ; the believer's works will be judged as to how one has utilized his gifts/talents/resources for the Lord.
We are commended to be ready, so that "When He shall appear, we may be confident, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming" (I John 2:28). Perhaps our sorrow at the loss of any reward, may be the tears that God will wipe away (Rev. 21:4).
I. That Which Leads To A Reward - In I Corinthians 4:1- 5 we see that being stewards of the mysteries of God prepares us for eternal reward. A mystery in Scripture is not something mysterious, as we might think, but refers to something that in the ages past was hidden from our understanding, and is now revealed by God to us. In this sense our stewardship of the "mystery" is understood in Colossians 1:27 where we see that as God's children we are to proclaim the truth of God, "Which is, Christ in you the hope of glory". Our commission as part of the church, the body of believers, as stated in Matthew 28:19,20 is to proclaim the message of Salvation to all mankind. This was revealed by Christ to the Church when He came the first time. Faithfulness in carrying out our commission prepares us for reward.
As stewards of God's grace, we also are responsible for being trustees of our material possessions, as to how we use them. The way of the world is to selfishly acquire and use what can be gained. For the Christian there is a Biblical formula as to the gathering and dispensing of one's material wealth (See: Matt. 25:14-30; Gal. 6:7; Matt. 6:20; II Cor. 8:12;9:6). Proper utilization of one's material possessions on earth, will prepare one for an eternal heavenly reward.
Since the Christian lives in basically a self centered and greedy world, we are commended to do good unto others, and be of help to them (Gal. 6:2), especially unto the family of believers (Gal. 6:10). A kind word, even a "cup of cold water" will prepare us for eternal reward.
Persistence in life, as a Christian, since we live in an evil environment, will prepare us for eternal blessings and fulfillment. This too prepares us for a reward (Matt. 5:11,12; Luke 6:22,23; II Tim. 2:12).
II. The Time of the Reward - In Matthew 16:27 we see that it will come on the day when Christ shall return, and "Then shall He reward everyone according to his works". This is emphasized again in Revelation 22:12.
III. The Nature of the Reward - The Bible envisions the rewards as "Crowns" to be bestowed on the victor. Our responsibility today is to run the race of life, keeping our eye on Jesus Christ, and trusting Him for our eternal reward. See: Hebrews 12:1,2.
1. An Incorruptible Crown (I Cor. 9:25-27). This is God's reward to those who strive for mastery in the Christian faith. Since God's primary desire for His children is to become more Christlike in character, it behooves us to keep our eyes on Him, and mold our character after the Lord. As we meditate on the Word of God (Joshua 1:8; Ps.1:2,3), and allow the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and discernment (I Cor. 2:14; James 1:5), then our lives come into conformity to God's design for us. Then we will be able to be a good witness for Him (I Peter 3:14-17).
2. A Crown of Rejoicing - (I Thess. 2:19). This reward is for souls we win to the Lord. We are to let the light of the Gospel of Christ shine through us to others, so that they may see Christ in us (Matt. 5:16). A Christ like life is the best witness, for others are more impressed by who we are, than by what we say. In Prov. 11:30 it says, "He that winneth souls is wise".
3. A Crown of Glory - (I Peter 5:4). This reward is to the shepherds of the flock, who have oversight, but are also to be examples. Though this primarily refers to the spiritual leaders in the family of God, I believe it also pertains to parents who raise children as overseers, to faithful Sunday School teachers who minister to their classes, to anyone who influences others in the things of God's Word. In this sense each one does shepherding, and God is not unmindful of that influence we have in shaping other's character for the Lord Jesus Christ. It too will gain the reward. This should be an encouragement to every Christian.
4. The Crown of Life - (James 1:12; Rev. 2:10). To those who endure the testings of life and are faithful, God will give a reward. God's children, past and present, have endured many trials and tribulations, even unto death for His name sake, and God is keeping a record, and they will not lose their reward for faithfulness.
5. The Crown of Righteousness - (II Tim. 4:8). Christians anticipate Christ's return. To those who long for and anxiously await His coming, God promises this reward. The anticipation of Christ's return, in this day of increasing wickedness becomes even greater in the lives of those who know Him and love His Word. This love knows no bounds.
The Apostle Paul had a fitting conclusion to the understanding of these rewards in II Timothy 2:10-15, when he instructs us to, "Give diligence to your exhibit of works before God, that you may be approved of Him, a workman who has no cause for shame, because you have cut in straight lines the truth of His word". What an admonition to us today.
A medical missionary in Africa, many years ago told of a native whom he had ministerd to his physical needs, was asked to care for something for the doctor, who was in a hurry to go to a meeting. The native respond by saying, "I'll take your alms, but I won't be your servant". As Christians, do we respond at times to God because of our selfishness like that man, or are we mindful of what He has done for us, so that we desire to love Him, to please Him, and to serve Him, for in so doing, "Great is your reward".
Shall I empty handed be, when beside the crystal sea,
I shall stand before the everlasting throne?
Must I have a heart of shame, as I answer to my name,
With no works that my Redeemer there can own?
When the harvest days are past,
Shall I hear Him say at last,
Welcome pilgrim, I've prepared for you a place?
Shall I bring His golden sheaves,
Ripened fruit, not faded leaves,
When I see my blessed Savior face to face?
When the books are opened wide,
And, the deeds of all are tried,
May I have a record whiter than the snow?
When my race on earth is run,
May I hear Him say, "Well done",
Take the crown that love immortal doth bestow.
Chapter 26 - The Seven Judgments
There is a coming day of judgment upon the earth, that will in various aspects affect all of mankind. It is taught in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It will include Christians, non-Christians, Jews, Gentiles, and all the nations of the world.
Psalms 96:13, Ecclesiastes 12:14, and Hebrews 9:27 speak of a general judgment that will take place at the end of the age. Acts 17:31 declares the certainty of this judgment, by the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead, showing His ultimate power over all mankind, even death. John 5:22,23,27 declares Jesus Christ to be the judge. The Bible speaks of seven distinct judgments.
I. The Judgment of Believer's Sins on the Cross of Christ - John 12:31; I John 3:8..
Here is where judgment began. The sins of the believer in Jesus Christ were judged by His death/burial/resurrection. In Hebrews 2:14,15 it speaks of the fact that Christ came into the world in the human form of Jesus, since sin had been committed in the realm of humanity, to meet sin head-on and conquer it. The result was that mankind has been delivered from the bondage of sin and death (i.e. eternal/spiritual separation from God).
The result of Christ's coming into the time/space world of mankind, where sin had been introduced, was God's declaration of righteousness (i.e. Justification) to every person who makes a commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of one's life. Romans 3:24 explains that every believer is justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Then Romans 5:1,9 notes that one who is justified by faith has peace with God through Jesus Christ. Furthermore, being justified by His blood brings salvation from the judgment to come.
II. The Believer's Self Judgment - I Corinthians 11:31.
In the context of one's coming to the communion table there is the necessity of self judgment. This is a time of evaluation of personal sins that need to be confessed to God, so that any broken fellowship with Him may be restored. This self judgment avoids chastisement from God.
Chastisement from Him is not condemnation (I Cor. 11:32), for His chastening is always corrective of His child, not vindictive (Hebrews 12:10,11). God does not chasten non-Christians, only His children, to bring them back into the way of holy living.
III. The Judgment of the Believer's Works - II Cor. 5:10.
This is a judgment that takes place in heaven, to all believers, when their works as Christians are evaluated. This is a judgment of one's works, not one's sins. Every Christian's sin have been covered (i.e. eliminated) by the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. But, every work of the child of God as His child will be evaluated for reward or loss thereof (Gal. 6:7; Col. 3:24,25).
I Corinthians 3:11-15 shows to the Christian that Christ is our foundation of life. Every child of His builds upon that foundation a superstructure of "gold/silver/precious/stones" or "wood/hay/stubble". Then the text tells us that God has an account of our works that the day of judgment will declare it, and then everyone will receive a reward or loss of it, but the Christian will be eternally saved, even through the judgment of God's refining fire.
The time of this judgment will be at the return of Christ to take over the world, and conclude everything in judgment (I Peter 5:4), i.e. "when the chief shepherd shall appear". Therefore, the admonition to every Christian daily is, "Whatsoever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not unto mankind" (Col. 3:23).
IV. The Judgment of the Nations at Christ's Return - Matthew 25:31-46.
When Christ returns to judge the world, He will judge the nations on the basis of how they treated His people, Israel. Since nations cannot be judged apart from individuals, it will be a judgment of individuals within those nations.
The test is their treatment of Israel during the Tribulation period. In the Matthew passage it speaks of three classes of nations: "Sheep" nations, "Goat" nations, and "My Brethren".
V. The Judgment of Israel at Christ's Return - Ezekiel 20:33-38. This is a prophecy of future judgment upon Israel. The issue will be as to who will enter the promised land for the kingdom blessings. In Malachi 3:2-5; 4:1,2 it speaks in prophetic tones, that refer ultimately to the Lord Jesus Christ, as the "Sun of Righteousness", who will bring healing to the people of Israel. From Jesus Christ's personal testimony in the New Testament we recognize that only those who believe in Him as their Messiah and Savior will enter into the kingdom blessings (John 6:26-29). Those who have not accepted Him as Messiah and Savior will not enter in to enjoy the promised blessings of His eternal kingdom.
VI. The Judgment of Angels & Satan After the Millenium - Jude 6,7 and Revelation 20:10. After the thousand year reign of Christ on earth, and Satan's loosing "for a little season", he will be judged, along with all the fallen angels (i.e. Satan's demons), II Peter 2:4. When Lucifer fell from Heaven, and became Satan before the creation of the earth (Isa. 14; Ezek. 28), he drew a third part of the angels in heaven (Rev. 12:4) and they threw in their lot with him. There was war in Heaven, and God cast Lucifer and his angels out of Heaven, and now these fallen angels became Satan's demons. They all will be judged for being against God, and will be judged to eternal damnation (i.e. "the lake of fire" -Rev.20:10) Matt. 8:29; 25:41.
VII. The Judgment of the Wicked Dead - Revelation 20:11-15. This is the final judgment. It will include every person who has not acknowledged Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives. This is a judgment that the Bible calls the "second death", which is eternal separation from God, not annihilation. It is the "lake of Fire", which not only is totally separate from the life of God, but will be the torment of eternally unfulfilled desires. For those who plead their "works" as justification from God's judgment, the "Book of Life" is God's answer (Rev.20:15). The way by which one enters into the Book of Life is through a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, and His covering for their sins. Then one's works, which never can measure up for Salvation from sins, will bring reward, as done out of love for Him. God never created anyone for judgment, but for eternal fellowship with Him. It would be inconsistent with God's attributes to send anyone to eternal damnation. Each person condemns himself to eternal separation from God through his sins. This is why Christ came to redeem (i.e. buy back by paying the price of one's sins) every person (Rom. 8:1-4), so that the judgment of God would not fall on him (Note: John 6:26-29). To the individual who accepts Christ's redemptive work, he has eternal life. To the one who does not accept Christ's sacrifice for his sins, then God has no other alternative but to judge that person to eternal separation from God. For God in His holiness cannot countenance mankind's sin. This is why Christ died for all, to care for the sins and eternal destiny of every person.
Breathe on me breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what thou dost love,
And do what thou would do
Breathe on me breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with thee the perfect life,
Of thine eternity.
Chapter 27 - The Trump of God
Date setting for the return of Christ has become commonplace in Christian circles today. Some say the catching away of Christians in not a matter of secret. They claim that the Rapture will be in the middle or end of the Tribulation.
These assertions lead to some inescapable conclusions. The very mention of a mid-trib or post-trib rapture is the same as date setting, since the Bible is explicitly clear as to the time period for the middle and end of the Tribulation. Thus the church is robbed of the blessed hope of Christ's imminent return, since for centuries He has been momentarily expected. The imminency of Christ's return, or lack of it, then ceases to be a sanctifying factor and a motivating element in the lives of Christians.
Much of this controversy is based on the "trumpets" in Scripture, and particularly, "The trump of God". There are 115 passages in the Bible relative to trumpets. These passages show that there are three kinds, Human, Angelic, and Divine. Human trumpets were used by Israel to make announcements to the people. Angelic trumpets announced judgments or victory, and Divine trumpets followed the same pattern.
I. The Trump of God and the Last Trump are One and the Same:
Two primary Scriptures speak to this: I Thessalonians 4:15-18 and I Corinthians 15:51,52. Five elements identify these two trumpets together: 1) both were written to believers in the church, 2) both discuss the same subject, the resurrection, 3) both describe the same effect on the saints, 4) both hold forth the same hope for living saints, and 5) both passages use this hope as the occasion for comfort and exhortation (note: I Thess. 4:18 and I Cor. 15:58).
With this remarkable agreement, there is but one conclusion, they are the same. The "Trump of God" identifies it as to kind; it is a Divine trumpet. "The last trump" identifies it as to order; it is the final trump.
II. The Last Trump of God Points to the First Trump of God:
In order to have Biblical understanding and make progress, the terminology of Scripture must be followed. The term, "last" means the final or end of things in a series. It may be two or more, such as "the first Adam", and the "Last Adam" (I Cor. 15:45). Thus, the "Trump of God" is last in a series of Divine trumpets. A study of the 115 references to trumpets reveals that just two may be called, "Divine".
To understand about the "last trump" we must know about the first trump. The first mention of the trumpet in Scripture is the trump of God (Exodus 19:13,16,19; 20:18,19). To confirm the writing concerning the first trump, the writer of Hebrews refers to this in Hebrews 12: 18,19,26 (note: v.26 speaks of the last trump; see Joel 2:1 with 3:16).
III. The Last Trump Will Announce Resumption & Completion of God's Dealings With Israel Upon the Basis of the Law:
God's plan for Israel's future unfolded with the prophecy of the "Seventy Weeks" in Denial 9:24-27. But, the 70th week has not been fulfilled as yet. Faith assumes it will be fulfilled in the future, as the first sixty nine were in the historical past. This "seventieth week" is a week of years, rather than days, and is the future period of the seven years of the great Tribulation (For a differentiation between weeks of days, and weeks of years see, Genesis 29:27,28).
The very "Day of the LORD (Jehovah)" will be characterized by the "Last trump of God" (Zephaniah 1:14-16). During this period God will carry to completion His program for Israel under the covenant He made with them, beginning with His unconditional promises to Abraham. God announces the resumption and completion of this covenant by blowing the trumpet, as in the days of old.
IV. The Last Trump Will Cover the Seven Years of Tribulation:
The trumpet of Israel announced God's dealings with Israel over a long period of time. So, the last trump will announce God's dealings with Israel over the seven years of Tribulation. This is why Zephaniah 1:14- 16 speaks of "A day of the trumpet", meaning the period of the trumpet.
It also means the announcement of the gathering of Israel from among the nations (Isaiah 27:13; Matthew 24:31). It means wrath for the rest of the world (Joel 3:1,2,16 with Hebrews 12:26), and tribulation for the Jews (Zephaniah 1:4,12), in the sound of the trumpet (See: Zechariah 9:14-16).
V. The Last Trump of God Announces the Deliverance of the Saints From the World:
In I Corinthians 15:52, the Apostle Paul uses the sounding of the trump of God to signalize the time when the believers will be raptured. The first trump of God was at Mt. Sinai, with its tremendous impact for Israel. The sounding again will mark the completion of the work of the Church, and renewal of relations with Israel.
At this point in time God's administration through the church (i.e. the Church age) is finished. God then takes up with His children of Israel, in the final seven years (i.e. the great Tribulation, which is the 70th week of Daniel) before His coming to set up the Kingdom. Hallelujah.
Jesus shall reign where e'er the sun,
Does His successive journey's run;
His kingdom spreads from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
It may be at morn, when the day is awaking,
When sunlight through darkness & shadow is breaking;
That Jesus will come in the fullness of glory,
To receive from the world His own.
O, Lord Jesus how long, how long,
E'er we shout the glad song,
Christ returneth, Hallelujah!
Chapter 28- Toward A Worldview
In order to properly construct a worldview that is constructive, positive, and fulfilling to the individual, it is necessary to have some underlying assumptions, based on objective principles. Since we are all biased and prejudiced in some form, it stands to reason that it is impossible to construct a worldview that is balanced, without these objective guiding principles. Also, since every person desires a fulfilled life, it is necessary to have a proper worldview that will guide one toward that goal. There is nothing in this world that is able to be an objective guide toward a balanced worldview, therefore one must go outside to find that objective standard.
A basic assumption toward building one's worldview is to accept the validity of the Bible as a guide toward establishing basic premises. Again, this is to assume that there is a God, who created the universe and all that is in it, including mankind. It also is assumed that His revelation in the Bible was given as a model or guide to helping us model our lives, provide some guiding principles for life itself, and to assure us that when we follow these guidelines, we will have fullness of life (John 10:10).
The Bible states that God created mankind for three purposes, as seen in Psalm 8:4-6: 1) For fellowship with Him, 2) To be a reflection of God's moral character (that is the understanding of the word "image" as seen in Genesis 1:26), and 3) To place mankind as king over all God's creation. God then told man to fill the earth with his progeny, and thus the purposes of God would be multiplied in people, and this would go on eternally. But, sin entered in to mankind, in the form of his turning from being God centered to becoming self centered, and now mankind constantly struggles between that for which he was created, and the selfishness that he constantly desires. This has set up a constant conflict within each of us, that is prohibitive of our being fulfilled, as well as skewing our ability to construct a worldview that would be fulfilling.
This is the reason why God sent His son into the world, to be both a revelation of God's purposes to us, as well as to care for the problem of our sin (i.e. self-centeredness). When one accepts and commits himself to the work of regeneration and reconciliation with God, through Jesus Christ, then that person has a new life in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that gives him the ability to construct a proper worldview that is consonant with God's intended purposes from the beginning, so that that person can be fulfilled in life, and find purpose for living. Since God's original purposes are eternal, the ultimate outcome for eternity will be the consummate fulfillment of these purposes in the lives of all God's family.
Between God's original purpose in mankind, in the garden of Eden, with the original sin that entered in, and the ultimate consummation of the world, when God restores it to the original Edenic conditions, lies the individual trying to construct a life, predicated upon some worldview, that would provide fulfillment in life. Unfortunately, the inhibition of life due to one's self-centeredness is the cause of the consternation and lack of fulfillment. The only way by which one's life can be ordered aright, is to have a worldview founded upon God's guiding principles. Since He is the creator and sustainer of life, it is also true that He has provided a manual of operations for life, that we call the Bible, and it and it alone gives guidance to each person, so that life can be maximized and provide hope for the future.
In order for one to construct their individual worldview, there are certain basic elements that must be accepted in order to have a solid foundation for life. The Bible is a book of basic principles, that are applicable to every person. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to apply these guiding principles in their unique application to each one. Therefore, each person will have a different worldview, since we are individually unique, yet all will be constructed upon a principled foundation of the Bible.
Some of the basic principles that are found in the Bible, that act as guidelines for us, are important to understand, so that we can construct our worldview properly. A suggested list of them, to be used as a guideline, are as follows:
1) That there is a sovereign creator of the universe, who created and sustains in His omnipotence all that there is.
2) That He created mankind as the ultimate of all His creation, and that in him alone is the "image" of God, which consists of God's moral qualities. These moral qualities are reflective of God Himself, but were marred due to man's sin of turning from being God centered to being self centered.
3) That since God's purpose for mankind is eternal, God determined to provide salvation from man's sin, which separated him from a holy (i.e. sinless) God, and reconcile man back to God eternally. This came in the person of God's son, Jesus Christ, who came into the world to reveal the Godhead to all, and to provide that reconciliation of man back to God, through His death/burial/resurrection. In order for any person to have reconciliation with God, and be assured of life eternal (i.e. heaven), one must make a personal committal of his sinful life to Jesus Christ and what He did for him(see John 14:6).
4) Until the time that the person goes to heaven, it is imperative to realize that the rest of life must be spent in building a mature Christ- like life, as guided by the principles of the Bible, and administrated by the Holy Spirit in that person's life. The Bible states that when one commits his life, with all of his personal resources to God's control, then that person really begins to live the full life, that everyone desires to have (see Romans 8:6).
5) To be totally surrendered to the Holy Spirit's control, is to experience freedom from guilt, worry, fear, the future, whatever. It also allows the person to accept everything that comes in to life, beneficial or detrimental, to be assimilated in such a way as to recognize God's guidance on that person's life, toward maturity and fulfillment (I Thessalonians 5:23). God is not a capricious God, who sits in heaven zapping His children for the fun of it; rather He is a God of economy, who utilizes His power to allow trials and tribulations of life to instruct and build us up, not to tear us down.
The primary purpose of God in the life of a Christian is for that person to "grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18). In other words, spiritual maturity is the ultimate concept for life that God has in mind. Everything else flows out of this design. Therefore, the individual construction of one's life, i.e. profession, work, where one lives, how one's time is spent, attitude toward economics, politics, world situations, education, etc., all is specifically determined by the basic foundation of Biblical guidelines, and is then specifically directed in that person's life by the influence of the Holy Spirit, who is God's director to every Christian.
God did not make us alike in Christ, though spiritually speaking we are one in Him. He has given to each of us differences of abilities and talents, to be used for our maturity as well as our service for Him (I Corinthians 12:4-31). As God's children we differ in our interests, learned behaviors, desires, etc. When Romans 12:16 states we are to, "be of the same mind one toward another", it does not mean we are to think alike, but to exercise love toward one another, and not allow our differences to adversely affect our love.
Everyone has a worldview, whether they realize it or not, or if they do, whether they are able to articulate it or not. God wants us to understand His revelation to us, for our benefit, and to provide a model or guideline in order to construct our lives for His honor and glory and for our benefit and fulfillment. His guarantee to us is that when we follow His guidelines we have a happy, beneficial life, that will allow us to say when we come to life's end, "I have had a fulfilled life". (Psalm 1:2.3).
"For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind." II Timothy 1:7.
Power to live constructively,
Love to live sacrificially, and
A sound mind to live reasonably.
'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word,
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, "Thus saith the Lord".
Yes, 'tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease,
Just from Jesus simply taking,
Life and rest and joy and peace.
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I've proved Him o'er and o'er.
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus;
O for grace to trust Him more.
Chapter 29 - A Biblical Philosophy of Life
A great theologian Dr. B.B. Warfield once said, "Any doctrine in scripture is established, if only one verse teaches it". II Timothy 1:7 states, "For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind". This summarizes God's philosophy to fit mankind's needs. It provides balance in life for all God's children. This Biblical principle is explained and amplified in many places in scripture, through teaching by the Prophets, and illustrations in the lives of Biblical characters.
I. The Analysis: In order to achieve a balanced view or philosophy of life, God has given us both a mind to think with, and emotions with which to feel and love. The problem is that human beings tend to gravitate to one extreme or the other.
To be overtly "minded" tends toward a cold, analytical, empirical thinking, that may adversely affect those who are more emotional in their makeup. The result is to become acutely logical and critical without much compassion emotionally.
To be overtly "emotional" tends toward acting and reacting with one's feelings, and lacking logical thinking, may result in one vacillating emotionally to "highs" and "lows" in their feelings. This tends to hinder one from thinking rationally in a balanced manner, and constantly keeps the logical thinking person off balance in trying to relate to the emotionally minded person.
God desires His children to be balanced in life, so that He has given us both thinking and feeling for this purpose. The Bible speaks of Jesus Christ as being a "meek and lowly" person. Meekness is not a sense of timidity, but refers to balance in life. Christ was perfectly balanced in His life, with a servanthood attitude (Matthew 11:29; Mark 10:45). Since Christ is the Christian's model, we should be desirous of emulating Him.
II. The Teaching: II Timothy 1;7 uses four key words that need to be understood, in order to grasp the meaning and intent of God's purpose in life for the Christian, to show us how we should live.
1. Fear: There are two words used in scripture for fear. the one means to have awe or respect for God as to who He is. This is seen in Philippians 2:12. The other word used here refers to being afraid (see also Hebrews 13:6). The Christian has no cause for fear, as coming from God to us His children. See Hebrews 4:14-16.
2. Power: God has given the Christian power in order to live CONSTRUCTIVELY. This comes from Jesus Christ Himself. Matthew 28:18; John 1:12; Ephesians 3:7. This power provides for progressive maturity in life through the Holy Spirit, and His application of the truth of the Bible to our lives.
3. Love: Since we are all creatures of emotion, we desire to love and be loved. This also comes from God Himself, who is the very essence of love (I John 4:8-10), and He desires that we love SACRIFICALLY. To love in this fashion, is to give of one's self unselfishly for the good of another. This too is exemplified in Christ, who gave Himself for us (John 3:16). Therefore, we ought to love one another (I John 4:11-21).
4. Sound Mind: The logical, analytical, empirical thinking that we do, is also from God, in order that we might live REASONABLY. This is rational thinking, to counter balance an irrational world in which we live, that is contrary to God Himself, and His program for us (I Corinthians 2:9-14; Colossians 2:8-10).
III. The Application: This balance that we have from God, provides to the Christian a sense of self esteem, worth, dignity, and security. It helps to reject fear as well as a feeling of inadequacy and inability to act properly. This balance in life is obtained through appropriating God's grace and help in daily living. It comes through a daily commitment of one's life to the control of the Holy Spirit.
God has promised to supply our needs (Philippians 4:19), and our resources are the riches of God's grace (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 11:33). From these assured "bank accounts" the child of God can draw on an inexhaustible supply to meet every need. Our Heavenly Father is desirous that we trust Him completely and implicitly (I Peter 5:7; Hebrews 4:16), follow the principles of His word reasonably (Psalms 119:11), and love one another fervently (John 13:35; I John 4:18-21).
IV. The Conclusion: This is the formula for a full life (John 10:10) that eliminates fear, and produces a balanced wholeness that brings fulfillment to the child of God.
"Only one life, twill soon be passed;
Only what's done for Christ, will last".
Simply trusting every day,
Trusting through a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
Brightly doth His Spirit shine,
Into this poor heart of mine;
While He leads, I cannot fall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
Singing if my way is clear,
Praying if the path be dreary;
If in danger, on Him call,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
Trusting Him while life shall last,
Trusting Him till earth be past;
Till within the jasper wall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate'er befall;
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
Chapter 30 - The Bible and Psychology
Modern day cognitive (i.e. to know or perceive) psychology says that the important motivating aspect of life is what a person thinks, as well as how one feels. While it is good to think, and everyone should do it, the Bible says, "As a person thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7). In other words, what one thinks characterizes the individual, and if one's emphasis is on his feelings, that characterizes one selfishly (Proverbs 3:5,6), because one's thinking is pointed inward toward the fulfillment of the self.
Psychology has certain basic assumptions relative to mankind: 1) that people are both rational and irrational, 2) that people are as likely to believe a lie as well as the truth, 3) that people are predisposed to be creative in their thinking, as well as irrational and destructive in behavior, 4) that people's thinking is affected by external impressions both rational and irrational (e.g. media programs appeal to both right and wrong), 5) that people tend to think, then act, and 6) that behavioral problems can stem from unsubstantiated acts. These basic underlying assumptions color the way psychology impacts individuals, and counseling procedures.
When we turn to the Bible to see what its principles are relative to mankind's basic character and behaviors, we come to a more incisive penetrating foundation from the God who created all mankind, and who knows absolutely and best as to our makeup. Therefore, since He is the creator of our minds and how we think, it is imperative that we consider God's "handbook" of life the Bible, to evaluate how one should both think and feel.
It is not necessarily activating events that produce rational or irrational behavior, for there is an intervening belief about the event that comes in between.
(Belief about the event)
(Behavior or emotions)
The person's "belief" is in control, not the "event" itself; therefore, it isn't the circumstances, but one's belief about the event that produces the behavior or emotion. What one believes, which is typical of one's character, is the dominating factor as to behavior or emotions.
When one studies the principles of the Bible, which are always an accurate barometer of mankind's thinking as well as a true guide to life, it is easy to understand why the Bible places so much emphasis on the "renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2).
The Christian is commended to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5); to have a willing mind toward Godly things (II Corinthians 8:12); to be of the same mind in love toward others (Romans 12:16); and to realize that God has given to His children a sound mind to live reasonably (II Timothy 1:7). When one's mind is guided by Biblical principles, then any event in life will be processed through a Biblically principled mind. This will then produce the behavior/emotion that is God desired, as well as bringing maturity to the Christian.
The totality of God's salvation of His children includes a new nature (II Corinthians 5:17), as well as spiritual discernment to understand Biblical principles (especially see: John 16:13; I Corinthians 2:14; Colossians 2:8-10), so that as one goes through life he may experience the wholeness and fullness of cognitive/emotional health.
It is the responsibility of parents, pastors, teachers, counselors, etc., to get people to change their behaviors based on Biblical truth, for submission to the control of the Holy Spirit, who always directs the child of God into all the truth (John 16:13), is the means that God uses to change one's character. In this way individuals will arrive at balance and wholeness that is beneficial to life.
Chapter 31 - Balancing Christianity and Psychology
There is a growing emphasis today upon combining modern day psychology with Biblical truth, much to the dismay of some, but in the interest of others, who wish to integrate the two. Some believe that trying to integrate the two philosophies or worldviews of life, is to the detriment of Biblical principles. Others feel that though psychology is basically tied to a humanistic philosophy, which it is, Christians can gain a degree of understanding that is able to help them better handle the problems of life we all face.
Though humanistic psychology has its flaws, to eliminate it altogether from meeting the needs of Christians, is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. One of the problems with human nature is to turn to one extreme to avoid another. Balance in life is both Biblical and desirable, in order to enjoy the fullness of life.
In order for one to both understand scripture, as well as the emotional aspect of life, and how Biblical principles can be applied to daily living, it is imperative to be guided by some basic assumptions.
First, a high view of scripture does not require that all knowledge must come from the Bible. God has given to all mankind a natural revelation of Himself (Romans 1:19,20). Granted that God's perfect revelation to mankind is imperfectly perceived through sin, yet he does understand some of God's revelation (Psalm 19). Even unregenerate people are able to learn God's truth through nature, as well as other avenues of learning.
Psychological elements of mankind are learned through empirical research and are valid truths, though not stated as such in scripture. It is not the knowledge gained in itself that causes the problem, but the human philosophy of life in the mind of the individual, in applying that knowledge to life's situations that becomes the problem.
Second, in order to achieve a high degree of Godly understanding, it is imperative to understand Biblical principles. The continual emphasis in the Bible to the Christian is to have a willing mind for the principles of God's Word, in order to grow in maturity (Romans 12:1,2; II Corinthians 8:12; I Peter 2:2; II Peter 3:18).
When psychological research relative to the mental/emotional elements of mankind are explored and applied, they can be checked against the principles of God's Word. If they are not contrary to them, they may be legitimately utilized. Some maintain that all we need for Godly living is found in the truth of the Bible, and that is so. However, since even Christians "see through a glass darkly" in life, we need not disdain the knowledge that God has allowed mankind to learn. It must coincide with God's truth, which supercedes all our understanding.
Third, in God's view of life, sin is still sin, not a personality problem or an addiction that can be rationalized. One may have a personality problem, which in itself is not sinful, but could cause one to fall into sin, or make one more vulnerable to sinning. Christ pointed out that out of the heart of mankind comes all forms of sin (Matthew 15:19), which humanistic psychology attributes to other causes, and rationalizes away the responsibility one has for his own behaviors.
Fourth, all assertions of unregenerate psychologists are not necessarily untruth. Psychology is an area of valid inquiry where one may learn from the research and insights of non-Christians. Much scientific knowledge that Christians use daily, comes from non-Christian understanding and exploration.
Some argue that scientific research that has produced the physical advantages of labor saving devices we all use, is one thing, but when unregenerate and humanistic individuals delve into the mental/emotional aspects of mankind, the application of their reasoning is contrary to the Biblical principles for living. This is what is said that Christians should not accept. Granted there is a difference, yet it does not necessarily follow that all humanistic psychological research is invalid. This is why the principles of the Bible are clear and understood when it comes to daily living. We can trust them for life itself, and at the same time appreciate the help that psychology is able to provide.
Fifth, Colossians 2:9 states that, "In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily". In numerous ways a psychologist is able to help a Christian become more consciously aware of his needs, and better able to understand himself, and thus more intelligently find his needs supplied in Christ.
Finally, mental/emotional healing can come from psychotherapy, though this is not equivalent to Salvation. Becoming a regenerate person, cares for one's penalty for sin, through the blood of Jesus Christ. Spiritual maturity comes through the work of the Holy Spirit applying the truth of God's Word to life. A Christian psychotherapist can both provide help in the emotional/mental areas of the Christian life, as well as applying the principles of the Bible to those needs.
The Bible states that we are composed of Spirit, Soul, and Body (I Thessalonians 5:23). The Spirit is the life we have in Christ, the Soul is our will/emotions/mind, and our Body is the flesh. All three elements of ourself either positively or negatively interact with each other, constantly. To impact one element of our self, is to touch the other two. Therefore, we need to address all three elements simultaneously, in order to come to wholeness of life. Biblical psychotherapy is able to meet the needs of both the Spirit and the Soul, and medical help is able to meet the needs of the body.
When Christians accept psychology as a valuable tool of human behavior and understanding, one moves into a very delicate area of life. The human personality is complex beyond the total understanding of the most competent theologian or psychologist. The Bible states that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14). The Bible provides final truth, as stated in its principles, which may or may not be understood by the Christian, for we are less than perfectly mature.
Thus, when psychology provides insight into human nature and its workings, it behooves the Christian to evaluate that understanding in light of Biblical principles, but not to arbitrarily dismiss it. To accept the Bible and reject psychology is just as extreme as to accept psychology and reject the Bible. Balance is needed, and spiritual discernment as to that balance is essential (I Corinthians 2:9-14; Colossians 2:8-10).
Chapter 32 - Three Haunting Fears
In a recent nationwide poll it was determined that there are three areas of life that haunt people: death, guilt, and lack of purpose in life. These consuming problems are in marked contrast to what God states in Psalm 8:4-6, that mankind was created to reflect the moral character of God, for eternal fellowship with Him, and to enjoy the fullness of life of being custodians over all God's creation. The deception of sin has turned mankind from being God centered to being self centered, and that is what has caused these threefold fears.
Let us consider the contrast between God's purpose for His creation, and mankind's philosophy of life. Then we shall evaluate a resolution to this conflict, as to how it can be overcome, and the ability to bring one's life into conformity with God's will, so that fullness of life becomes a reality. In John 10:10, Christ noted, "I am come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly". God desires all His children to enjoy life to the full, without these haunting fears plaguing the Christian through life.
In Isaiah 55:8, God says of mankind, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways". The Bible notes that the philosophy of the person in the world is after "the tradition of men, after the elements of the world, and not after Christ" (Colossians 2:8). In other words, one's worldview (one's opinion of what constitutes living) of life is basically self centered, not God centered. Therefore, one's philosophy of life is governed and patterned after what the majority think, or what is the trend at the time, not necessarily that which the Bible teaches.
This basic philosophy of life is what produces the fear and guilt, and in reality does not provide for real purpose in life. The reason this is true is that mankind was created to reflect the moral qualities of the creator. When one turns from that, then the only alternative is the self, and since one does not have creative life within himself, but only from God, there is no longer the resources to deal with the issues of life itself. The conclusion is that the end result brings fear of the future and the unknown, as well as purposelessness in life.
Biblical truth for living is quite the opposite. Christ said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Life in Christ followed by living out the principles of the Bible, provide the fullness of life all desire, and that God wants us to enjoy. The worldly philosophy of life does not satisfy in the long run, whereas God's way brings life and peace (Romans 8:6).
God's antidote to the problems of these three areas of life that haunt people, is found in the Bible. The resurrection of Christ, who conquered death, has brought eternal immortality to every Christian (I Corinthians 15:54-57; II Timothy 1:10; I Peter 1:23). The "sting" of everlasting death, and fear of the future have been removed. Though the child of God may suffer physical death, one need not fear eternal death, by trusting Christ's work in their behalf.
For every Christian the guilt of sin can be removed through confession to God (I John 1:9; Psalm 32). No one needs to have guilt hanging over him, and once confessed there is not only forgiveness, but also cleansing. Sin once confessed brings Gods forgiveness, and God "wipes the slate clean", as to ever remembering it again (Hebrews 10:17).
One of the most persistent designs of Satan against the Christian is to "bug" one with past sins that have been confessed, and God has forgotten. In Philippians 3:13,14 the Apostle Paul stated that he had forgotten those things which were behind, and that he was pressing forward to the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. As he went about ministering to the saints, as God's Apostle to them, one can easily believe he could have been overwhelmed with remorse at what he had done to the Christians in the past.
At one time Paul, whose original name was Saul, was an employee of the Roman government putting Christians into prison. After the Lord regenerated him on the Damascus road (Acts 9), and now as the Apostle Paul, he probably was preaching to some whom he had previously put into prison. It can be easily imagined that he would have a great deal of guilt at what he had once done, as he saw the marks of imprisonment in their faces. Yet with confidence he was able to proclaim God's message to those Philippian Christians. He fully trusted what God had declared in His Word, that Paul's sins were forgiven and forgotten.
There are times in every Christian's life, when past failures and sins are brought up by Satan, to lay a guilt trip on the person, so that one has to tell Satan to "bug off", for no child of God owes Satan anything, but owes God everything. When God forgives and forgets the confessed sins of His child, it brings peace to the believer, who accepts what a loving heavenly Father has done because, "the blood of Jesus Christ His son, has cleansed us from all sin" (I John 1:7).
In today's world of stress and strain, there is no reason to multiply the problems that face us, by adding to them the guilt of confessed sins of the past which God has forgotten. If we but follow His guidelines for life, by trusting Him, and relying upon His Word, the Bible, we can be freed from these three haunting fears.
Christ gave us the assuring promise in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid". Eternal death for the Christian has been conquered, guilt through confessed sin has been wiped out, and God desires us to have purpose of life and fullness through Him. What more can the Christian ask?
When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way.
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away.
Not a doubt nor a fear, not a sigh nor a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there's no other way,
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Chapter 33 - Six Emotional Causes for Disease
In I Thess.5:23 it states that humans are composed of three elements of life: Spirit, Soul, and Body. Our Spirit is the life we have from God, our Soul is our emotions and will, and our body is the flesh. It is well known that all three elements, through transference, either positively or negatively reinforce each other.
When one element is affected, it affects the other two to some degree, for the majority of organic diseases have a psycho/somatic origin. There are six basic causes for these problems, and there are means that the Christian can employ to offset them, in order to achieve wholeness in life, which is what God would have us to enjoy. In John 10:10 Christ said, " - - - I am come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly". God desires that every child of His have a full life.
I. FEAR - This is basically a healthy element (e.g. fear of fire, etc.), but when out of control (e.g. fear of unknown, future, death, etc.) it becomes a problem. God's antidote to uncontrolled fear is His love in and through us. In I John 4:18 it notes that, "There is no fear in love; but mature love casts out fear".
Again in II Tim. 1:7, it tells us that, "God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind". Therefore, the Christian has no reason to fear the future, or death, etc., because in Heb. 13:5,6 we read, " - - For He has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you, so that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" In a positive manner we are commended to, "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need". With these assurances, the Christian is able to overcome, by God's power and grace.
II. ANGER/HATRED - A healthy controlled temper (for God has given us a temper to energize us productively) is quite normal. But uncontrolled, which results in anger and hatred is not normal for the Christian who is supposed to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Only as one submits the self to the Spirit's control is there victory over anger and hatred.
In II Cor. 5:14 we see that it is, "The love of Christ that constrains us", and helps the Christian to handle his temper. It is normal to have a temper which spurs one on constructively, but temper uncontrolled is anger, which is destructive, and may produce hatred as well.
Anger against another is sin, and in the end the angry person really hurts himself, for anger burns within and consumes the individual, so that one is unable to think or act properly. God's remedy for this is found in I John 1:9. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness". Then in I John 4:16-21 we see that the love of God within us helps us control our temper, and allows us to project ourselves in love to others, rather than in anger. The result is a lessening of tension, stress, and strife, with God's replacement of love toward each other.
Some years ago I had a Mother bring her teenage daughter in to me for counseling. They did not agree with each other, and therefore were constantly at odds. The daughter expressed much anger against her Mother. Later, when the school year was over she took her daughter to a mental institution in the city, where she spent the summer. At the end of summer she came back to counseling with me. I asked the girl what went on at the institution, and she told me that they had a large room with pillows and empty garbage cans, and when she got angry at her Mother she was to pound the pillows and kick the garbage cans, and then when her Mother visited her, she was to tell her off. I asked her if it helped, and was their relationship better. She replied that it wasn't, so I asked her if I could offer a fourth alternative, to which she answered that I could.
I turned to I John 4:7:21 and showed her of the love of the Lord, and how our allowing Him to fill our lives, so that instead of anger against one another, His love could flow through us to others. This was new to her, and in succeeding sessions, as a Christian Mother and daughter allowed the love of the Lord to permeate their lives, it brought healing to their relationship.
III. DEPRESSION - In today's world we see much depression, because of the many burdens people are carrying. For the child of God the transforming power and help of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian can overcome this problem. A healthy outlook in life through spiritual exercises (i.e. Bible study, prayer, worship, praising the Lord, etc.) as well as proper food, rest, physical exercise, all are contributing factors to alleviate depression. Chronic depression, which lasts for a period of time, may require professional help and possibly medication for a time.
Psalm 139:14 tells us that we are, "fearfully and wonderfully made", a delicately balanced instrument of God's creation. When one gets out of balance, depression can set in. Balance is the key through caring for our spirit, our soul, and our body. It is important not to neglect any one of the three, but to properly care for each element of life.
In Isa. 61:3 it speaks of, "The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness". Singing melody in our heart, with praise to God, is spiritual medication that can do much. The great hymns of the faith have contributed a great deal to elevating spirits.
Psalm 42:11 provides a therapy that does much to help depression, "Why are you depressed, O my soul? and why are you upset? Hope in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance and my God".
One of the best ways to overcome depression is to help someone else. In II Cor. 1:3,4 this is the thought, "Blessed be God - the God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."
The Christian ought to be the most optimistic person in the world, since he has the most going for him (i.e. Rom. 8:31 - "If God be for us, who can be against us?"). The resources the Christian has are found in trusting the Lord, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13). As humans we are all prone to sadness periodically, but we need not despair, since the Lord is our helper, why should we fear.
IV. SELF-CENTEREDNESS (Narcissism) - This kind of stress is unbelievable, since it is directed inward and builds up, which creates an ever increasing constriction within the person. The primary sin in the Garden of Eden was Satan's deception of mankind, to get Adam and Eve to turn from being God centered to being self centered. This not only caused a separation between God and mankind, but this sin has been passed down to each of us in a sinful (i.e. self centered) nature.
The result of this turning inward has produced all the problems inherent within mankind. All the wars, oppression, bloodshed, greed and power, stem from the sin of self-centeredness.
God's answer to being centered on one's self is to turn away from this, and turn one's focus on the Lord Jesus Christ, not only as Savior, but also as Lord and master of one's life. God has given us an ego that needs to be satisfied, and God understands this. But, only as we surrender our lives to the Holy Spirit's control, is He able to bring balance and fulfillment to us.
The Apostle John stated in John 3:30, "He must increase, but I must decease". This does not mean that God desires to "put us down", but to keep our ego from over exerting itself, and submission to His control, provides the proper balance in life. This is why Rom. 12:3 states, "that everyone should not think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think in a balanced way, according as God has given to each one a measure of ability." Submission to the Holy Spirit's control brings a healthy balanced ego, with security and fullness of life.
V. LONELINESS - It is a well known fact of life that the death rate of lonely people is two to ten times higher and faster from this disease than from other factors. God created us as social beings, and we enjoy the fruits of fellowship with one another. This, among other elements provides the fullness of life we so much desire.
It all began in the Garden of Eden. God and Adam had sweet fellowship together, that met both their needs. So, the qualities of God in mankind extend to a continuing need for friendship with one another. This is why Christian fellowship is both necessary and beneficial; God ordained it. Therefore we have a responsibility to extend ourselves to lonely needy people.
Five times in scripture the word "Paraclete" is used, which means, "called alongside to help". It is primarily used of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,26;15:26;16:7; I John 2:1). When Christ told His disciples He was returning to heaven, He promised that He would send the Holy Spirit to, "come alongside of them to help". This is part of the Spirit's responsibility to the Christian. Now, in turn the Christian is to be a paraclete to fellow Christians, as well as to others in the world. In Gal. 6:2,10, we are admonished to "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of God". As we do this we help overcome the loneliness of life that people experience.
VI. STRESS FACTORS FROM OTHER PEOPLE - As human beings we are very sensitive to other people, and adversity in relationships cause stress. This can be very debilitating to people already weighed down with burdens.
In Rom. 12:9-21 we are commanded to live peaceably with all, and to never allow our differences of opinions to adversely affect our love for one another. In Rom. 12:16 it says we are to be, "of the same mind toward one another". This does not mean that we are to think alike, for God created us all different. It means we are to love each other, even though we think differently. In I John 4:7-21, the Apostle enlightens us as to how we should exercise this love, so that we reduce, not create stress with other people. In this way we are fulfilling the law of God, in ministering to others.
In conclusion there are five means by which we are able to overcome these emotional problems: 1) Recognize the healing process available to each Christian by simply trusting the Lord. 2) Teach, as well as learn from others the healing process for our emotions as seen in God's Word (Eph. 4:23; Phil. 4:6-8). 3) Recognize the sacramental process of healing as seen in James 5:13-16. 4) Learn to care for others by listening to them (II Cor. 1:3,4 and Heb. 10:24). 5) Integrate the time/space world in which we live with the spiritual world, through the wisdom and discernment of the Holy Spirit. This helps to come to totality and wholeness in life (Eph. 6:10-18).
Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow,
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest.
Often, when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blest.
Under His wings, who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safetly abide forever.
Chapter 34 - Life's Three Problems
Of the many and varied problems that people face, there are three that are foundational to life: 1) The feeling of depression; 2) Worthlessness and low self esteem; and 3) A sense of hopelessness. Much of professional counseling today is consumed in alleviating these needs.
It is interesting to note that most all, if not all of the problems that people face have their answers somewhere in the Bible, woven into the fabric of human relationships, as recounted in God's dealings with mankind (I Corinthians 10:11). Therefore, it is imperative that one consider what God's Word has to say relative to meeting these concerns.
I. Alleviating Depression: Every person has moments of sadness and so called depression, but when a person has a chronic problem (involutional melancholia) it is time to seek professional help. A Christian counselor knows that in the pathology of depression, the truth of the Bible plays a great part in alleviating the distress. This is not to discount the part proper medication may play in helping the problem, but medication is only a means of immediate help, so that the problems that caused the depression can be worked on, for permanent relief.
The principles of the Bible, when seriously considered and acted upon, provide constant strength in overcoming. See particularly Isaiah 61:3; Psalm 42:11; and II Corinthians 1:3,4. Along with God's promises the singing of the great hymns of the faith bring uplifting help to the one who is downcast. Many hymns were written out of the crucible of trials and tribulations, by people who have experienced what sadness and depression brings, yet have triumphed, and written marvelous hymns to that effect. God has used these hymns to strengthen and bless His children, who have been going through similar circumstances.
Prayer is, as the Bible describes, the soul's sincere desire, and to be able to cast one's care on the Lord is beneficial (note: I Peter 5:7; Hebrews 4:16; Psalm 55:22). Worship and fellowship with other Christians is most energizing in helping one to overcome a downcast spirit (Psalm 27:1-3).
All of the above elements must begin with a sincere acceptance in the mind, that what the Bible says, must be taken at face value, believed, and acted upon, constantly. Then, and only then, can one expect these truths to control the person emotionally. All this must be accepted in the mind, before it filters down to the emotions.
II. Coming to worth and self esteem: Though as humans we are created in the image of God (i.e. the worth of God's moral qualities), we often suffer from a sense of worthlessness and low self esteem. Unfortunately, in today's world, undue emphasis is placed on self worth and esteem, in order to bolster the ego of the individual. Going from one extreme (low self esteem) to the other extreme (pride) is wrong, and certainly not the balance that the Bible desires for a person.
Though the Bible warns against pride of self (Romans 12:3), it also teaches the eternal worth of every individual, and God's desire that Christians have a balanced view in life. When God created Adam/Eve in their sinless estate, they reflected the fullness of God's moral qualities, which gave them self worth and esteem. They recognized this as coming from and dependent upon God.
When they fell into sin, and turned from being God centered to becoming self centered, their worth and esteem had to come from within themselves, and then they began to have problems. This is why God promised the coming of Jesus Christ, to restore mankind to his original state, and when one accepts what God has done for him through His love, the self worth and esteem has its source in God's love and grace. The proper Biblical view of mankind's worth and God's esteem of His creation is found in Ephesians 2:4-7; Titus 34-7; John 10:10, 12:26, 13:34, and 14:27.
One's self esteem and worth does not come through ego-centeredness, else it is distorted by selfishness, but through an acceptance of what one is and has through being "In Christ", and the dependency upon Him for worth and acceptance.
III. A life of hope: Hope in life ahead is one of the most motivating factors in one's existence, whereas hopelessness is the most devastating. The Bible teaches that the only real hope (that which is beyond the grave, eternally), is that which is found in Jesus Christ (Lamentations 3:21,24,26; Romans 5:2-5, 15:4,13; Colossians 1:5,23,27; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 6:11,18,19; Philippians 1:6).
In the midst of moral and spiritual declension, and the blackness of wickedness in the world, the Christian can rest in the hope of the sovereignty of God. In spite of what we as humans see today, God's program is on track. Our response should not be one of despair, but of trust in Him, and for us to carry on with the responsibilities entrusted to us, resting in His control.
Resignation of despair to the hope we have in God brings true joy in life. The following passages give us cause for hope, that is beyond anything the world can offer: Philippians 1:6; I John 3:2; Romans 12:12; I Peter 1:3; John 14:19. It is comforting and strengthening to realize that God has ordained all things to, "Daily give us all the benefits of life" (Psalm 68:19)
My hope is in the Lord, who gave Himself for me.
And paid the price of all my sins at Calvary.
For me He died, for me He lives,
And everlasting light and life He freely gives.
No merit of my own, His anger to suppress,
My only hope is found in Jesus' righteousness.
For me He died, for me He lives,
And everlasting light and life He freely gives.
And now for me He stands, before the Father's throne,
He shows His wounded hands, & names me as His own.
For me He died, for me He lives,
And everlasting light and life He freely gives.
His grace has planned it all, 'tis mine but to believe,
And recognize His work of love, and Christ receive
For me He died, for me He lives,
And everlasting light and life He freely gives.
Chapter 35 - Foundation for Marriage
The primary complaint in most marriages is that a lack of communication is the basis of discord and misunderstanding. Though this is a problem, to be sure, it is the result of the problem, not the root cause. In order to construct a foundation for marriage, based on God given principles, one must first look at the basic problem.
I. The Causes of Marital Discord: There are basically four.
First, the root cause is SELFISHNESS. Since selfishness began with Adam/Eve, and is passed along to all mankind, this problem constantly intrudes into marriage, which leads to division not union. The ego centeredness in all of us overwhelms, and this brings problems in every aspect of life.
Second, there is the problem of COMMITMENT. The original will of commitment made in the marriage vows, needs to be reinforced daily on the part of both husband and wife. The selfish tendency in each of us to go our own way, can only be overcome through exercising daily and continuing commitment.
Another problem is that of PRIORITIES. Generally we tend to place our work first, then our family, and finally our responsibility to God. For the Christian these priorities need to be reversed. When God is placed first in our life, the family second, and our work last, then our personal life will be more fulfilling, and God will honor our priorities (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; Romans 8:6), and this in turn will benefit everyone in the family. Note: most ministers have their priorities right, but have a tendency to fuse one and three together, so that their wives and families get left out, which is tragic both to them, as well as a poor testimony to their congregation.
Finally, the fourth problem is a lack of TRUST between husband and wife. Trust is the foundation and jewel of marriage (Proverbs 31:11). Trust is built through the WILL of Agape love (I Corinthians 13). This type of love is not of the emotional variety, but of a willingness to project one's self to their partner unselfishly, through honesty, truthfulness, integrity, understanding, openness, encouragement, etc. The combination of the willingness on the part of each to the other, produces a trust that nurtures emotional love and fulfillment that is so satisfying.
Selfishness is a hindrance to building trust, whereas trust can only be nurtured by not only trusting the other, but by being trustworthy of the trust they have received. This takes a commitment of the WILL.
II. Building a Fulfilling, Fruitful, Relationship: there are three basic principles or guidelines to follow, in order to have this kind of a marriage relationship.
Since most marriages suffer from a daily, almost imperceptible erosion, there needs to first be a RE-COMMITMENT to each other. This means a renewal of trust in each other. It may not be easy, because of the past abuses of trust, but this is where one must first trust the Lord, then their mate. It is also necessary for each to trust the Lord to help them be trustworthy, since each has squandered the original trust that was given to them.
Moreover, it requires a cutting off of past "garbage", and not "dumping" it on each other every day. Instead each must be committed to work at being trustworthy of the new reservoir of trust they have received. Included must be a willingness to forgive and be forgiven, since a change of habits does not come easy. When one slips back into the old habits, there must be confession and forgiveness, without a casting up of the past such as, "there you go again, I knew it was too good to be true". Rather, reflect upon the time and place where the re-commitment took place, and a trusting in the genuineness of the willingness of the commitment that was made.
Each has a personal responsibility to make the necessary changes, and at the same time be accepting of the other, realizing the imperfections each has. This takes time to change, as well as trusting and becoming trustworthy.
The next step is to develop the WILL of Agape love. As was noted above, this is the love of will, not emotion. It is a selfless love, willing to give, rather than take. Selfless love, bonds; selfish love divides. Agape love accepts each other, "warts and all". It produces a reservoir of trust, through daily, positive reinforcement of each other, refraining from criticism and casting up, and never takes one's partner for granted.
The final step is to work on the four "C's" of marriage: 1) A daily continuing COMMITMENT to the one you love; 2) Developing open COMMUNICATION, by accepting each others thoughts without attacking. The ultimate goal of every marriage should be an "emotional nakedness" between husband and wife, without fear of being "attacked", though this does not mean they have to think alike. This is far harder than physical nakedness in the bedroom, but far more important; 3) Provide for loving CONFRONTATION. God never intended us to think alike. It is not do you confront, but how. In Proverbs 15:1 it says, "A soft answer turns away anger"; 4) Have a willingness to COMPROMISE, since we will never think alike. Compromising helps us to overcome our bent toward selfishness.
III. Conclusion and Commendation: God has entrusted the leadership of the family to the husband/father, and therefore it is his responsibility to "set the pace" by example, rather than by precept (Ephesians 5:25; I Peter 3:7).
When a husband/father sets a loving pace by example, and treats his wife like a "queen", then she will have no problem willingly submitting herself to her husband. She does not want a driver, a bully, or a dictator, but a loving, accepting mate.
Since parents are developing learned behaviors in their children, which they will carry over into adulthood, and transfer over to the one whom they marry, it behooves parents to set a proper example before their children. Dr. Shedd, a Christian psychologist, once asked a five year old boy if his Daddy loved his Mother. The boy proudly answered that he did. Then Dr. Shedd asked him how he knew that? The little fellow said, "When my Daddy comes home at night, and Mommy is in the kitchen getting supper, Daddy comes in and pats Mommy on the fanny; boy does my Daddy love my Mommy". That Father probably never realized that his behaviors made such an indelible impression on his son. And, this carries over into most all examples parents display before their impressionable youngsters.
Finally, daily pray that you may be sensitive to meeting your beloved one's needs. There is nothing greater to bind and bond a husband/wife together than a spiritual sensitivity that each has for the other. This produces the Lord's blessing on the relationship that is fulfilling.
Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way;
Thou art the potter, I am the clay;
Mold me and make me, after thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.
Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way,
Hold o'er my being, absolute sway,
Filled with thy Spirit, till all shall see,
Christ only, always, living in me
Chapter 36 - Toward A Balanced View of Sex
When God created Adam/Eve, he infused within them a normal desire for sexual relations (Gen. 1:22; 2:25). God saw that this was good, for it was His idea for sex to be enjoyed, as well as for propagation of the race. All of sexual enjoyment was to be within the confines of marriage. Furthermore, God placed no prohibition on whatever sexual desires or fantasies within this marriage bounds a couple desired to do (Heb. 13:5). Therefore, the greatest emotional drive, next to eating, sex, was to be indulged in to the fullest, without any prohibition whatsoever.
When sin entered the human race through the fall of Adam/Eve, they turned from being God centered to becoming self centered. Not only has the bottom line of sin (i.e. selfishness) adversely affected the whole human race, but it has caused all the problems of the world of mankind, through the centuries. Since the family unit, ordained by God to be the foundation of society, has been adversely affected by this sin of selfishness, it has left its scar on the God ordained delightfulness of sexual relations between husband and wife. Consequently, what many couples ardently desire in a fulfilling sexual life in marriage, has become an almost insurmountable barrier between them, as their selfishness has caused a continuing lessening of sexual relations, and a growing barrier between them, so that real intimate friendship and communication is broken down.
In order for a couple to enter into the joys of a fulfilling sexual life in marriage, not only do they need to realize the God ordained aspect of this in their relationship, they need to be freed from many of the hang- ups which have plagued many marriages when it comes to sex. Also, they need to understand positively how God created the man and the woman sexually, and how each desires to have the other one meet his/her needs sexually, without prohibition. Only in this way will each have their sexual needs fulfilled.
Selfishness on the part of the man demands that his wife submit to his sexual desires. But, this is not God's way, for in Eph. 5:21 it states that each is to submit to the other. Furthermore, in Eph. 5:25 the husband is admonished to love (i.e. to willfully project himself to meet her needs) his wife, just like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. However, the selfish husband, driven by passion, presses himself upon his wife, so that she not only is turned off, but ultimately despises her husband. He creates this within her, by selfishly coming to a climax before she is ready, by lack of tenderness, by being unclean, by demands when she is tired, by not treating her as his wife in a kind way day by day, as well as through other turn offs of various ways. He is somewhat like a hungry man, who sits down to eat his meal, and without regard to manners, plunges in with his hands and fills his stomach, as well as ignoring others at the table. This not only repells the others at the table, it shows him up for what kind of a person he really is. So, many a man treats his wife, in the confines of their bedroom where no one else sees him except his wife, like the man at the table, and it is no wonder that many a wife secretly despises her husband.
It is the husband's responsibility to lead his wife, i.e. to set a proper course by example before her. This is the way God ordained the marriage relationship. If he leads through example like the man at the dinner table, then he has only himself to blame for her being turned off sexually by his advances. If a loving husband sets a good example before his wife, if he not only loves her emotionally, but also willfully, by working at trying to understand her and meet her needs, then she has a responsibility to also project herself to meet his needs. Since God created the woman for the man (I Cor. 11:9), He has given her a desire to do just that. When a woman turns aside from meeting her husbands needs (note: most women who are turned off by their husbands will continue to do the cooking, keep the house, raise the children, but in the sexual intimacies of life they refuse, since their whole emotional being shut down due to his lack of projecting himself to meet her needs and by not being an example of Christ like love to her) then she does not give of herself intimately to her husband, and thus feels cut off from doing the very thing God ordained her to do.
There is no person who is either oversexed or undersexed, there is no basic element of being a frigid wife, and there is no person who is devoid of being capable of enjoying a full and free sexual life. True, there may be medical reasons for experiencing the above, but under normal conditions God has given us the capability of a full enjoyment of a sexual relationship. It is the selfishness of mankind, both male and female, that has created these abnormalities, and for whatever reason(s) any of the above are an inhibiting factor to a sexual life within marriage they need to be addressed, corrected and guided toward the enjoyment that each desires.
Many of the problems within the sexual side of marriage are due to misconceptions as to what is proper in the sexual relationship. In Heb. 13:5, it says, "marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled". God's principles are stated plainly and clearly. This simply means that within the bonds of marriage, anything sexually that a husband and wife wish to do, is perfectly acceptable in God's sight. The only prohibition is that one should not selfishly impose his/her sexual fantasies on the other one in a selfish way that would hurt their partner or cause one to be offended. There is nothing wrong with various positions in sex, nor is there anything wrong with oral sex, or a wife desiring to seduce her husband, or engaging in sex in a swimming pool, or taking showers together. If both enjoy these pleasures God gives His approval.
One of the great differences between a man and a woman, is that a man is turned on by sexual sight, and a woman is turned on by gentle touch and feel. She desires to snuggle and be held, to be caressed and feel secure in the strong arms of her husband. When a man projects himself to meet his wife's needs in this way, it may result in sexual intercourse, but then again, it may only go that far on a given occasion. For a giving, loving husband is sensitive to what his wife desires at that point, and does not selfishly press himself.
For a wife to meet her husbands needs, she realizes that her body, with its voluptousness, means much to him. He enjoys being titillated by her seductiveness, and her enjoys seeing her in various stages of undress, and provocatively being enticed by her in this way. This too would have its approval by God between husband and wife.
In my counseling dysfunctional marriages over the years, I have realized how great an impact the sexual area of life has in the relationship. I would even go so far as to say that the behaviors between husband and wife are directly proportional to their sexual life. If the husband has been sensitive, loving, and given to meeting his wife's needs, she will in turn meet his primary need, which is much sex. If he has not met her needs, she will be turned off by him, and if she does give in to his sexual demands, it is only because of duty, not desire. The conclusion is that the marriage disintegrates, communication breaks down, anger, hostility, and lack of trust sets in, and ultimately bitterness. Most of the husbands I see feel that their sexual life is seriously deficient; most wives do not trust their husbands. When this impass comes about, their marriage is in serious difficulty.
The only way to correct this great need is to not get into the problem in the first place, and for those beginning marriage to understand, through counseling, how each is constructed and how to project one's self to meet the other one's needs, and forego these problems. To those who are married, and through lack of understanding or selfishness have come into a dysfunctional marriage, they should get professional assistance, and come to counseling with an open mind, and a willingness to correct their behaviors, as well as project themselves to meet each others needs. I Cor. 7:1-16.
Chapter 37 - Don't Squeeze the Balloon
Reflecting on the joys of childhood often brings to mind the fun of playing with a balloon. Squeezing an inflated one could produce interesting shapes, some of which stayed, while others would remain only if the fingers were kept in place. Sometimes the rubber would stretch in such a way that if the air was let out, the rubber was permanently stretched in a rather grotesque fashion.
In an analogous manner, life itself is somewhat similar to the balloon. A person is molded and shaped as one grows and expands their horizons. There are many and varied forces tugging, pulling, squeezing, all trying to shape or misshape one's life. Let us consider how one may evaluate their life, then compare that to the Biblical principles, and finally the ministry of the Holy Spirit recharacterizing the Christian's life to become more Christ like in the maturing process.
When my children were growing up I told them that the books they read, the television they watched, and the company they kept, all contributed to molding their character, for good or evil. For every Christian this may be helpful or harmful, depending on the many facets of life, to which one is exposed and subjected, and to which one listens.
From birth to death, one is never immune to external forces which constantly bombard every person, and there is an internal response that accepts or rejects these intrusions. Therefore, what one meditates on and continuously thinks about, is that which shapes the character and molds one's life.
In Psalm 1:2 it tells us that the truly fulfilled person is the one whose, "Delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law does he meditate day and night". The Psalmist goes on to state the result in that, "He shall be like a tree planted - - that brings forth fruit, - - and whatsoever he does will prosper" (v.3). Every person desires fulfillment in life, and Christ noted in John 10:10 that, "I am come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly". To experience that kind of life, the Christian must follow the principles of the Bible, then God guarantees success and prosperity.
When Joshua led the children of Israel into the Promised land, God told him in Joshua 1:8, "This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; but you shall meditate (i.e. go over and over it) therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success". Prosperity and successfulness is desirable by everyone. For the Christian these two elements must be obtained by following Biblical principles, not by the way of the world.
Furthermore, in Romans 8:6 it tells us that, "To be fleshly minded (i.e. self centered) brings death, but to be spiritually minded (i.e. set on God's principles) is life and peace". The conflict in the development of one's character of life, revolves around the WILL, as to whether one follows God's way or the self centered way. There are many people just existing (i.e. a living death), not enjoying the fullness of life, because they have allowed the world to mold and shape them, instead of the truth of the Bible. It is no wonder they are not enjoying "life and peace".
The finest thing a person is able to say of oneself, when they come to the end of life is, "I have had a fulfilled life", whereas the saddest comment on past life is, "I wish I had it to do over again". Since we all have only one go around in life, it seems reasonable to accept the guarantee of God, in following His way, so that we can enjoy the fullest of life possible.
Recharacterization of life through the transformation of the work of the Holy Spirit, bringing the Christian into conformity with God's way, is the manner by which this is accomplished. It must begin by a willful desire to submit one's life to Holy Spirit control. This is not only a once for all commitment, but a daily continuing commitment for each day, since every Christian still has a self centered will that desires to be in control. In a sense this means writing the Holy Spirit a "blank check" for each day, and allowing Him to teach, guide, and control one's activities, thoughts, decisions, etc. for that day.
In John 16:13,14, Christ pointed out that when the Holy Spirit would come that, "He will guide you into all the truth", and that "He will glorify me". This means that the Holy Spirit guides the Christian in recharacterizing his life into the moral qualities of Jesus Christ. The word "glorify" means God's moral qualities. The result is that the Christian's character exhibits in behavior change, what the Apostle Paul called, "The fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians 5:22-24.
To try and be Christ like in behavior by trying to suppress anger, hostility, and bitterness, is to ultimately, like squeezing the balloon, distort one's life, and probably cause emotional and/or physical disaster to one's life. The God designed way, and most effectual catharsis and healing process, is to confess, rather than suppress, one's sin to God, which brings forgiveness, healing, and cleansing (I John 1:9), and allows the Holy Spirit to use the experience to mature the child of God.
Submission of one's will to the recharacterization of life by the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God (Romans 12:2), is for the individual to become more Christlike (II Corinthians 3:18), and is God's admonition to every Christian for fullness of life, and maturation as His child (Philippians 2:5; Ephesians 5:18; II Corinthians 4:6).
When a person allows the Holy Spirit of God to shape and mold his life, the result is not a warped life as the world shapes a person, which is devastating, but a wholeness and fullness that produces a fruitful and satisfying life, that will endure for eternity.
O to be like thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer.
Gladly, I'll forfeit all of earth's treasures,
Jesus, thy perfect likeness to wear.
O to be like thee, full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind.
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Fit me for life and heaven above.
O to be like thee, O to be like thee,
Blessed redeemer, pure as thou art.
Come in thy sweetness, come in thy fullness,
Stamp thine own image deep in my heart.
Chapter 38 - "So As"
As human beings we constantly and consistently are in need of guidelines to help us toward wholeness in life. Externally, we have laws in society, and internally we have values, principles and priorities, all of which give us guidelines and direction for life. The question then is, what guidelines do we follow, and where do they come from, in order to provide us with resources to insure that we have a full life?
God also desires that we enjoy fullness of life, for Jesus Himself said, "I am come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly"(John 10:10). In Psalm 119, there are six admonitions specified by, "So - As", in order to be a guide in life according to God's directive for the Christian. When we follow them, He guarantees an abundant life.
I. Psalm 119:11 - So As Not to Sin: The inability to measure up to what God desires of us, constitutes sin, as He evaluates it. Since God is a perfect being, His Word the Bible, produces perfect principles. However, though we are unable to measure up to God Himself, He is also realistic in that He accepts us where He finds us, and through Christ and the Holy Spirit we enjoy a perfect position in Him, as His children. At the same time through the principles of the Bible, we are progressively being conformed to His Word and will for us (For further understanding of this concept, see chapter 20 - The Threefold Elements of Sanctification).
Hiding God's Word in our heart (i.e. the Biblical principles) helps us to become molded in character into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a return to the "image" or "glory" of God in us, which is a transformation into the moral qualities of God. The result is that we become more mature as His children, and thereby do not sin against Him.
II. Psalm 119:18 - So As To Behold the Wonders of God's Law: God's revealed word, the Bible, provides the principles and guidelines for living a full life. Then it is the work of the Holy Spirit to apply the principles individually, according to the person's maturation process. This differs with every Christian.
In Romans 12:2, where it tells us how to do this, it says, "Be not conformed to this world (i.e. the lust of the self life, the pull of the world, and the designs of Satan against us); but be transformed by the transformation of your WILL, that in so doing you may prove God's will for your life, which is good, acceptable to Him, and perfect". As we willfully allow the Holy Spirit to transform our character behaviors, we become more Christ-like (II Corinthians 3:18), and we enjoy increasing discernment in spiritual things (II Corinthians 2:9-14).
Psalm 19:7 tells us, "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple". When Christ stated, "Take my yoke upon you, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30), He meant that God's parameters for the Christian were meant to free him up, not to bind one. For the committed Christian, this is all too true, by experience.
III. Psalm 119:89 - So As To Be Able To Be Settled In Life: The foundations of the truth of God's Word provides a surety upon which one is able to fashion his life. God's Word is "settled in heaven", therefore it is absolute, final, and is that upon which the Christian can depend. In Matthew 24:35 Christ tells us, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away".
Therefore, we can depend absolutely upon the eternal truth of the Bible, over against the relativity of our world's system. In the insecure world of today, where nothing is certain or secure, it is reassuring to know that one can trust the truths of God's Word.
IV. Psalm 119:97-98 - So As To Provide Wisdom For Life: As the child of God grows in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18), one gains a greater degree of wisdom (the God given ability to apply the principles of life to daily decisions).
There are two ways of gaining knowledge: Intellectual and Experiential. In Philippians 3:8 the knowledge spoken of here is intellectual, i.e. an understanding of the truth of Christ Jesus. In Philippians 3:10 there is the experiential, i.e. the experience of being a living sacrifice for Jesus Christ. God uses both in the life of the Christian to "flesh" us out to fullness of maturity. Just as every science course in school has both the classroom learning (intellectual), and the laboratory learning (experiential), so that a complete knowledge can be gained of the subject, God uses both areas of learning for our completeness.
The intellectual points to the mind, and the experiential strikes the emotions. In order to become a well rounded whole person, God is concerned with both elements of our development. The Bible teaches us intellectually; it is the work of the Holy Spirit to teach us experientially. Together, we have it all, in order to become a mature Christian, and be a testimony to the world.
V. Psalm 119:105 - So As To provide Light Upon The Pathway of Life: When walking through life, it gives one assurance to know there is light upon the pathway. The Christian doesn't have to stumble or grope, for God's Word provides the light of understanding and wisdom. Proverbs 1:7 tells us that, "The fear (the respect of God for who He is) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". Then Proverbs 4:18 states, "But the path of the just one is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day". Again in Proverbs 9:10 it tells us, "The knowledge of the holy is understanding". James 1:5 promises us wisdom from God to those who lack it. There are three relevant words used in Scripture: 1) Knowledge -this is the acquiring of facts, which comes through study (Proverbs 18:15); 2) Understanding - is the comprehension of the facts one has acquired (Proverbs 2:6); and 3) Wisdom - is the application of what one knows and understands to life's situations. For this the Christian needs the light of God's wisdom to properly navigate through the problems of life.
VI. Psalm 119:133 - So As To Not Have A Sinful Spirit In Life: Anything that is contrary to God's moral attributes is sin. In order for the child of God to understand what offends God's holiness, there are three specific words used in Scripture, to help guide us. They are found in Psalm 32:1,2 and 51:1,2. The first is the word: 1) Iniquity - this refers to one's basic sin nature, which we all received from our common father, Adam. It is the self centeredness of every person, which is in opposition to being God centered. Out of this nature comes the two basic acts of sin, which are: 2) Sin - this more restricted word for sin, refers to one falling short or not measuring up to God's behaviors for the Christian. It is like an arrow being aimed at the target, and not making it, but falling to the ground. King David fell short as God's king over Israel, in that he did not measure up to the position God had given him. 3) Transgression - this means going against God's principles, and doing what the self desires. It is somewhat analogous to the hunter going over the farmer's fence, when it is posted against hunting. Again, king David went against God's commandments, in that he coveted another man's wife, committed adultery with her, and killed her husband so he could have her.
As seen in David's testimony in both Psalm 32 and 51, he acknowledged his sin, and God forgave him. The joy of his salvation was returned to him, and God even called him, "A man after my own heart" (Acts 13:22). This shows God's unconditional grace to His children. O, to God, we Christians would have as much grace and forgiveness to one another, as God does toward His children. The truth and acceptance of God's Word gives us a right spirit, so we don't continue sinning against Him (I John 1:9).
Conclusion: In Psalm 19:14, David said, "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer". Again in Psalm 19:13, he asked God to keep him from "Presumptuous sins". We dare not presume upon the Grace of God. Therefore, God's Word helps us to have a right spirit before Him, so we do not continue in sin. The joy of the Lord in the life of the Christian is characterized as we follow His guidance in our daily living, So As to arrive at fullness of life.
Jesus, I am resting in the joy of what thou art;
I am finding out the greatness of thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon thee, & thy beauty fills my soul,
For by thy transforming power, thou hast made me whole.
Ever lift thy face upon me, as I work and wait for thee;
Resting neath thy smile, Lord Jesus, earth's dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father's glory sunshine of my Father's face
Keep me ever trusting, resting, fill me with thy grace.
Chapter 39 - Fear Not, Fret Not, Faint Not
In today's world there are many problems that produce fear and guilt in the lives of people. The resulting stress becomes at times, unbearable, and may ultimately lead to emotional breakdowns and physical problems. The Creator of our bodies never intended for mankind to live under these kinds of problems, for which we were never created.
In Psalm 139:14 we read "For I am fearfully and wonderfully made". The whole of an individual is a wonderfully complex structure, but not suited for the stresses to which we are subjected. The body has marvelous recuperative powers, but undue and prolonged stress is harmful. The Bible provides a threefold formula to help us overcome the problems of life, over which we may have little or no control, so that we are able to handle life itself.
I. Fear Not, But Trust: The following passages all speak to the child of God, in promises that help us overcome fear (Luke 12:32; Psalm 27:3, 48:14; Isaiah 41:10, 58:11; Hebrews 13:5,6). The reason the Christian need not fear is that God is sovereign and in control. This is a simple, but reassuring fact (See: I Chronicles 29:11,12; Psalm 10:16, 22:28, 24:1, 115:3; Isaiah 40:15-23). Therefore, we should TRUST our heavenly Father, which helps to alleviate any fear or apprehension.
II Timothy 1:7 points out that, "God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind". The spirit of fear comes from Satan using it to neutralize our Christian living, and keep us down. God has given us the spirit of power to live constructively, the spirit of love to live sacrifically, and a sound mind to live reasonably. In I John 4:18 it states that mature love casts out fear. When our love for Christ is being strengthened and matured, then fear decreases.
II. Fret Not: Much of the fear in society today comes because of evil and wickedness, and those who promote it. God's Word tells us to fret not because of evildoers (Psalm 37:1,7; Proverbs 24:19). This does mean that we should be blind to evil, nor that we don't need to stand up for good, but that we have no need to worry or get bent out of shape because of it.
Remember, God is in control, and He sees all the evil that is going on in the world. In Psalm 7:11 it says that, "God is angry with the wicked every day".Then in I Peter 3:12 we read, "The face of the Lord is against them that do evil". In Daniel 4:17, 25, 35, 37 the prophet Daniel pointed out the sovereignty of God over the kingdoms of mankind. It is comforting to understand these truths in dark days of wickedness among the peoples of the world.
III. Faint Not: At times it seems as if "right is on the scaffold, and wrong is on the throne", whereas in reality that is not the way it is, though it may seem that way. This is why God says to us, faint not. In Galatians 6:9 we are told not to, "Be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not". Other passages speak to this concept, such as: II Corinthians 4:16 and Isaiah 40:28,31.
Our responsibility is to keep on following the pathway of righteousness, trust our Heavenly Father (Psalm 37:3; Proverbs 3:5,6), and "Cast all your cares on Him for He cares for you" (I Peter 5:7).
These three admonitions are not glib panaceas for a troubled heart, they are God's principles and promises for today's stressful and complex living. These are promises the Christian can bank on, and know they are backed up by the "Word of God, which lives and abides forever" (I Peter 1:23).
My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ the solid rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
Chapter 40 - A Weekend for Reflection Upon a Life of Relationship
The fast pace of life, with all its responsibilities of business, family, etc., is not conducive to building a husband/wife relationship of a bonding nature. Therefore, in order for a husband and wife to provide a foundation of life that is both productive as well as fulfilling, it is imperative that they spend a working weekend together, away from all the responsibilities of life that would detract from their objective of building a pattern for their future relationship.
They need to retreat to a motel away from where they live, and evaluate their lives, both individually, together, and in their family relationships. They need to have on their agenda a working out of their worldview, priorities of life, what their principles for life are by which they live, their relationship and responsibilities to their children, and to each other as to common interests and commitment. They need to think through each of these areas, how they are intertwined in every aspect of their lives, and how as Christians all of these relate to Biblical principles that are given to be a guide in answering these inquiries. If a couple will dedicate themselves to this task, and will faithfully confront these areas, then apply the conclusions to which they come to their everyday living, the results will be manifold in fulfillment to every person in the family.
Since the Bible is the standard guide of God's revelation to mankind as to how to live, there are certain basic principles that act as a general foundational guide upon which Christians can erect the superstructure of their lives. The primary principle is found in Romans 12:1,2, "I implore you brothers, by the fact that God has with held His judgment from you, and instead has given to you of His grace, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, dedicated unto Him and acceptable unto God, for this is only reasonable. And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your WILL, so that you are able to prove what is that GOOD, and ACCEPTABLE, and PERFECT will of God for you." Conformation to the world is basically living a self centered life, with all of its problems and lack of ultimate fulfillment. Being transformed by an act of one's will to the control of the Holy Spirit and through guidance of God's word in the Bible, is to assure one of fulfillment in life which every person desires, and for which God created us (John 10:10). If a couple commit themselves to that basic philosophy and principle, then God is the guarantor that they will enjoy the fullness of their marriage and family.
Everyone has a worldview. The boy riding his bicycle has one, though if you asked him what it was he probably wouldn't know what you were asking him, nor could he articulate it if you explained. Nevertheless, he not only has one, but is actively pursuing it in his life. What is this worldview you ask, and in what way do all people live by it? A worldview is people's idea or philosophy of life as they evaluate it, how it motivates them through life and the decision making process, and the guide and parameter that gives direction to them. This is all encompassing for it not only differs with each individual, but is the pattern that molds their entire life. A worldview is ultimately important for every person, and is necessary for one to think through, since it is the guide through life.
When a couple get married they bring to that union two different worldviews. Their friendship, common interests, philosophy of life, etc., is the framework upon which they relate and desire to marry. The commonality of their individual worldviews or the divergence, is that which produces harmony or dissonance between them, as they go through life together. Therefore, it is imperative that before they marry they think through their worldviews, and if they have been married for sometime that they take time out to reflect, refine, and co-ordinate their worldview, if they haven't already done so. This is the reason for a weekend of reflection. In Amos 3:3 it says, "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" Obviously the answer is, no. God did not make us to think alike, and no husband and wife will ever agree upon everything, since our backgrounds differ. It is not do we think alike, but do we have a unified worldview, so that we are able to resolve situations from a common foundation, even though we all have differences of opinion.
A worldview encompasses goals, principles, behaviors, attitudes, desires, objectives, accomplishments, ethics, morals, and all that goes into life itself. It is necessary, if one is to have a fulfilled life and not just "float" through life, to evaluate all these areas, and come to conclusions as to how to operate out of these well defined and thought through elements. In marriage, where two are bonded together for life, it is easily seen that in order to have harmony and progression, that a couple must have similarity in their worldview. Otherwise, it won't be long after marriage that the divergence of two worldviews will produce major differences of application to decisions, with the result that soon each will be going their own way. This certainly is not productive to a building relationship and fulfillment.
One aspect of life that bonds a couple together is to have similar interests. This does not mean that everything they do or desire must be held in common, but a majority of interests should be of such similarity that they would enhance bonding. It is in the interest of this objective that a couple would do well to list on paper, individually, what each enjoys doing as to work, play, cultural desires, etc., then compare notes. It is interesting to see that when that is done, they each realize there are areas of interest that have not been communicated with each other before. It opens up doors that otherwise may have never been opened. Once that is accomplished, and they have set bounds for themselves as to involment together in these areas, then each one is free to pursue avenues of interest by themselves, without the other one becoming jealous of that one spending time in their own pursuit of fulfillment. When the majority of time spent and interests are done together, the interests pursued by one without the other will be more delightful without undue stress.
Part of the problems that individuals face in life which causes continuing irritation is that of priorities. In order to enjoy an orderly fulfilled life it is important to have right priorities. For a couple to have mixed priorities is to have a constantly confused and disordered marriage. This produces mixed signals that each gives to the other. The result is anger and frustration, since they are at cross purposes, and then each one fails to have their priorities executed in the way they figure they should be. For the Christian the Biblical order of priorities should be, God first, the family second, and work third. Usually the man has business first, the family second, and God gets the left overs, if any. Many pastors have the proper order, but unfortunately tend to fuse the first and third, i.e. God and their ministry are one and the same, so that the family gets left out, which is why many pastors families have anger against their husband/father's ministry.
Because of the press of life today to get ahead, it causes many families to place work for material gain ahead of everything, thus putting undo stress on the family, and certainly on our devotion to God. This is why a couple need time together to sort out their priorities, put them in proper Biblical order, have a common understanding, and determine to carry them out regardless of what the world's pressures that are brought to bear on them. With a united front, and with God's blessing, they can't miss in life. In I Samuel 2:30 God says, "--- them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me will be lightly esteemed." Right priorities faithfully placed and implemented in the family life will not only bring blessing and bonding to a couple, but an important added blessing of modeling excellent learned behaviors before their children, who will then find it easier to have right priorities in their adult life, and with the one whom they eventually will marry.
Most couples when they marry do not know the basic principles of marriage. They are so filled with emotional love that there is a tendency to gloss over the realities of life, that any married couple understands. They believe their love will carry them through. This lasts for a while, until the selfish realities of life emerge, and consequently the divisions that are born out of that self-centeredness. Since most married couples have trodden this path, it is imperative for a couple taking the working through weekend to know and understand the basic principles of marriage. There are many good Christian books to assist in the knowledge of these principles, and I would recommend Dr. Ed Wheat's book, "Love Life" as a premier book on the subject.
If a couple really desires to enhance their relationship and enjoy fullness of marriage, it is imperative to know the principles and then to be committed to putting them into operation. Properly understood and carried out, these principles along with the other elements outlined above will all work together to produce a loving, bonding, fulfilled relationship that will endure, "until death do us part".
If the couple have children who are old enough to have observed their parents behavior, and thereby incorporated their parents learned behaviors into their own lives, it is important for the couple to explain to their children what they have done over their weekend of marital work, so that the children know and understand any significant changes in the lives of their parents. This is important, for children tend to be impacted by parents life styles, and in adulthood reflect in their own behaviors what they picked up from parents in their childhood. They then transfer over to their spouse those behaviors from childhood and the family of origin. Children are resilient enough to be able to handle and accommodate in their lives, any significant changes for the better that they see in their parents behaviors. There is an old saying, which is true, that example is greater than precept, and parents inter action between each other has an impact on children such as to model their behavior significantly.
In John 10:10 Christ said, "I am come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly." God created all of His children to enjoy an abundant life. In order to have that we must follow Biblical principles, and then God will see to it that our lives are fulfilled. Marriage, which has been ordained of God, is one of the greatest elements that God has created for our fulfillment. Properly administered it will do just that, but improperly lived, marriage can be a living hell. One's spouse is either one's greatest asset or one's greatest liability. And, it is incumbent on each spouse to see to it that the other one's needs are met, thereby assuring that each one will have their own needs met. If a married individual took his/her marriage and their work, whatever it is, out of their life, there wouldn't be much of life left, if any. I don't care how poor a person's work is, if they have a good marriage they are able to handle their job. But, I don't care how good a job a person has, or how much money they make, if they have a poor marriage, it adversely affects their job. Therefore, it seems reasonable that one put time and effort into their marriage relationship, in order to enjoy that for which God created us, i.e. companionship for fulfillment, as well as for procreation of the race.
A good marriage that lasts for a lifetime takes constant work and monitoring. Only by understanding a Biblical worldview, enjoying common interests, having God honoring priorities, knowing, understanding, and putting into operation the principles of marriage, and modeling good relationships before one's children, can any couple have a blessed life of fulfilled companionship that ministers to each one's needs.
As a fitting conclusion to the principles and concepts that have been developed in the chapters of this book, consider the delights of the verses of this great hymn of the faith, "Like A River Glorious"
Like a river glorious is God's perfect peace,
Over all victorious in its bright increase.
Perfect yet it floweth, fuller every day,
Perfect yet it groweth deeper all the way.
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest,
Finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest.
Every joy or trial, falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial, by the Sun of love.
We may trust Him fully, all for us to do;
They who trust Him wholly, find Him wholly true.
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest,
Finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest.
Chapter 41 - The Christian's Response to Today's Problems
A Christian may ask, what is God's purpose in today's world, given the monumental problems we face, and why doesn't God do something about it? Why is God seemingly silent in the kingdom of mankind, and when will He bring it all into judgment? Fortunately the Bible has very specific answers to these questions. It remains for us to search them out.
God's ultimate purpose in the world, has been and still is, to bring all of mankind into reconciliation with Him. In Acts 15:14-17, the Apostle James states that, "God at the first did visit the nations of the world, to take out of them a people for His name - - that the remnant of mankind might seek after the Lord". In I Timothy 2:4 we see that God, "Will have all mankind to be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth". Also, in II Peter 3:9 we read that God, "Is longsuffering to mankind, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance".
The reason God is longsuffering, and it may seem to us forever, is answered in Romans 2:4, where we read, "Do you show contempt for the riches of God's kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" In other words, God's day of grace to all mankind is still operative, in order to give the opportunity for people to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior from sin, and have the assurance of eternal life. Though sin is rampant, because of the intransigent self will of mankind, God is still gracious to give us an opportunity to trust Him. Aren't you glad that God didn't conclude all in judgment just before you became a Christian? However, His day of Grace will someday conclude, and His day of judgment will commence (Hebrews 9:27). We don't know when the shift will come, but it behooves all mankind to get ready.
This separation of God's creation of mankind began in the garden of Eden, when Adam/Eve listened to the voice of Satan, and turned from being God centered to becoming self centered, by eating of the forbidden fruit, as God had commanded (Gen. 3:3). Since God created mankind for three reasons: fellowship with Him, for mankind to be a reflection of God's holiness, and to place mankind over the rest of the creation as "king" (Psalm 8:4-6), He now began the process of providing for restoration and reconciliation to all of the creation. Therefore, we have the first prophetic announcement of Scripture in Genesis 3:15, where God noted that the sin which Satan perpetrated in Adam, and from him to the whole human race (Romans 5:12), would cause God's Son, Jesus Christ, to come to earth and die for the sins of the world. But, in His death and resurrection He would crush forever the power of Satan over all mankind.
The sin nature of Adam was passed to all mankind (Rom.5:12), and out of that sin nature comes personal sin, for which each is responsible. Christ died to save mankind from both his sin nature, as well as his personal sin. The sin nature is automatically cared for in Christ's work, for God does not hold one responsible for that which he cannot help, but one's personal sin, for which each is responsible, requires personal commitment (John 3:16-18,36; 6:28,29).
God's ultimate purpose is the restoration of mankind unto Himself. God's Holiness without proper sacrifice for sins, would not allow Him to accept the restoration of mankind. The way by which God's Holiness could remain unsullied, and at the same time extend His love and grace to all, was to send Jesus Christ into the world and make sacrifice of Himself for our sins, and thereby we are able to be reconciled to God through accepting Christ's work in our behalf (II Corinthians 5:14-19; Galatians 3:24).
The story of the Bible is the recounting of two lines of revelation in order to accomplish God's purpose: 1) The people of God in the Old Testament, i.e. Israel as His chosen ones, and 2) The Church of God in the New Testament, i.e. Christians today.
I. The Old Testament: In the Old Testament God's purpose was fulfilled through Israel and the Theocracy (the rule of God). First, He chose Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) and told him He would make a great nation through him. Why God chose him as well as Israel is only understood as seen in Deuteronomy 7:6-8, where Moses said God chose them "Because the Lord loved you".
God's purpose in choosing Israel was for them to disseminate the revelation of Himself to all the world. Israel was to be God's channel of revelation (Solomon, the king, recognized this national responsibility, as noted in his dedicatory prayer of the Temple in Jerusalem - I Kings 8:41-43). In order for God to have a relationship with Israel He ordained the Priestly system, and chose the tribe of Levi to be the tribe of Priests, as mediators between Israel and God. He also used a group of Prophets to become God's mouthpiece of revelation of Himself to Israel.
The problem in this was the inability of Israel to live up to the covenant God made with them. It rested on the ten commandments God gave to them, and their ratifying of it at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20:1-7; 24:7). The continuing history of Israel from Sinai to the time of Samuel (about 400 years) was that of falling into sin, repentance, and God's deliverance.
Finally, at the time of Samuel's reign (Note: The Priests and Prophets only governed by the direct hand of God, that is the Theocracy), Israel moved from being a Theocracy to a Monarchy (i.e. rule of man). All this was predicted by God, when He gave to Moses what is written in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, four hundred years before. The corruptness of the Priestly system as seen in I Samuel 2:22; 8:3-5 caused the leaders of Israel to demand a king. God told Samuel they had not rejected him, but they had rejected God's rule over them. Thus, began the reign of human kings over Israel starting with Saul. The seeds of this corruption were sown upon entering the land when they disobeyed God's command to drive the Canaanites out of the land, to not intermarry with them, and to not worship their idols (Judges 3:1-8). The downward trend continued until 586 b.c. when Nebucadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, and carried the Jews away captive, until 1948 a.d. when the new nation of Israel was established.
Because God chose them to be His channel through whom He would reveal Himself to the world, Israel was instead lifted up with pride, and cloistered His revelation to themselves (Romans 2:17-29). Then when Jesus came hundreds of years later, as their Messiah and to save them from their sins, they rejected Him (John 1:11). As is noted in II Corinthians 3:14-16, they had spiritual blindness because of their sin of pride, etc.
II. The New Testament: At the outset of Jesus' ministry He preached the Kingdom of Heaven to Israel alone (Matthew 10:5-7), because as their Messiah, He had come to bring in the Kingdom, as promised by God. However, the kingdom Israel desired was a political restoration of the kingdom they had under David, whereas the kingdom promised by Jesus was a spiritual kingdom, which would care for their sins, then would come the political restoration. The spiritual blindness of Israel kept them from accepting the offer of Jesus. Had He restored the political kingdom again, it too would have eventually failed for the same reason the first one did, i.e. Israel's sins.
When Jesus perceived His rejection by Israel, He began to teach His Disciples a new concept, the Church (Matthew 16:13-18). This was never mentioned in the Old Testament. He pointed out that the Church would be empowered to do what Israel had failed to do, i.e. disseminate God's revelation to the world. The difference would be the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-26; 16:7-14). In I Corinthians 2:9-14 it is seen as to why the unregenerate person cannot understand spiritual things, and why the Christian is able to. This is why the Church has succeeded, even though not perfectly.
Christ gave the Church its commission (Matthew 28:19,20), as well as the ability to carry it out through the power of the Holy Spirit. This has been the Church's primary role until today. Our responsibility is not to judge what we see in the world, but to be faithful in carrying out the commission (I Corinthians 4:1-5), so that we don't get caught up in the ways of the world as did Israel.
III. Today's Application: Given today's world, with the sin we see, in contrast to our commission, how should the Christian respond?
Christ anticipated this dilemma, when He gave the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:10-13,24-30). Just as weeds far outgain the grain, so wickedness seems to prosper more than righteousness. In the parable the Disciples asked Christ about tearing out the weeds, and He replied that the two would grow together until the harvest, then the farmer would separate the grain from the weeds. So, as today, both righteousness and wickedness are prospering, the coming of God in judgment will separate the righteous from the unrighteous. It may seem as if "Righteousness is on the scaffold, and wickedness on the throne", but it will not always be that way. God is sovereign, and someday He will judge the world (Hebrews 9:27). Our responsibility to to carry out the commission, and leave the judging to Him (I Corinthians 4:1-5).
The Christian's response should be: 1) Accept the basic, absolute truth of Scripture. We all start with basic assumptions, and to believe the Bible as foundational, is to begin with the right assumption (Psalm 119:89, 97,98, 105); 2) Believe in the sovereignty of God (Isaiah 46:9,11; Psalm 10:16; 33:11; 103:19); 3) Accept the resources of the Holy Spirit to help give you wisdom, power, grace, discernment, etc. (James 1:5; I Corinthians 2:14); and finally, 3) Recognize the ultimate judgment of God on the world (Romans 3:19; John 5:21-27; II Corinthians 5:10).
Remember, "For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of POWER (to live constructively), and of LOVE (to live sacrificially), and of a SOUND MIND (to live reasonably)".
-II Timothy 1:7
Bibliography for Supplemental Understanding
Baxter, Sidlow. The Strategic Grasp of the Bible. Kregel Publications.
Chafer, L.S. Major Bible Themes. Zondervan Publishing House.
Colson, Charles. Kingdoms In Conflict. Zondervan Publishing House.
Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. Macmillian Publishing Co.
McClain, Alva. The Greatness of the Kingdom. Zondervan Publishing House.
MacDonald, Wm. Believers Bible Commentary - Old Testament. Thomas Nelson Pub.
MacDonald, Wm. Believers Bible Commentary - New Testament. A and O Publishers, Wichita, Kan.
MacDonald, Gordan. Ordering Your Private World. Thomas Nelson Pub.
Ryrie, Charles. Balancing The Christian Life. Moody Press.
Schaeffer, Francis. How Should We Then Live?. Fleming Revell Co.
Tenney, Merrill. New Testament Survey. Eerdman Pub. Co.
Tozer, A.W. The Knowledge of the Holy. Back to the Bible Broadcast.
Vander Lugt, Herbert. The Book In Review. Radio Bible Class.