Who Has Your Heart?

Photo by Hernan Pauccara: https://www.pexels.com/photo/frozen-wave-against-sunlight-1210273/

Please turn with me in your Bibles to:

Luke 17:11-21 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. 20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

We All Have A “Heart” Problem

Illustrate: March 21, 2009 was a little crazier in San Diego, California than it usually is. Drug suspects were moving large amounts of money in a truck, and Drug Enforcement Agency personnel got wind of it. They contacted the Highway Patrol and asked for assistance in tracking and stopping the vehicle. The driver refused to stop. At one point “cash was hurled out of the truck onto Interstate 805”, according to one news source. At that moment pandemonium broke out. Drivers on the interstate slammed on their brakes and, without regard to their safety, jumped out of cars and ran into the highway to grab all the money they could. One High School student Marco Casillas ran into the moving traffic with his friends. “It was a dream come true, we were in heaven. We saw one {bill}fly on the windshield and it was a $100 on my face and we just stopped and grabbed it… We were scared. We were parked halfway on the freeway, and halfway on the freeway…[But] we are football players and we were being greedy, and we were running and taking it from everybody, but then it got taken away.” Before they could escape with the money, officers seized the $1000 he and his friends had grabbed. Officers recovered around $18,000 in cash, all of it illegal to keep. People could have been killed – but by the grace of God no injuries were reported.

Illustrate: Weird things happen in California. On November 20, 2021 an armored vehicle was carrying money for the Federal Reserve on Interstate 5 in Carlsbad, California. The vehicle’s rear door popped open, and cash poured out – again, bringing about a “feeding frenzy”. People slammed on brakes, jumped out of their vehicles, and ran into moving traffic to get as much money as they could while they could. The California Highway Patrol and the FBI noted that – though some people returned the money – many others left the scene with stolen money.

Some of you might be wondering, “Well, what’s wrong with that? After all, finder’s keeper’s, loser’s weeper’s!” Yet this was not found money. In the first instance, this was money that came from the sale of drugs and death to children, to someone’s child. This drug money was probably bathed in blood, as drug cartels often kill to amass their power over a territory. Drug pushers capitalize on the weakness and loneliness of people, often giving their victims the first few doses for “free”. Then after a person is enslaved to the drug, the pusher has them turn to prostitution and robbery to get their “fix”. In 2020 91,799 people died from drug overdoses. This is blood money! As for the Federal Reserve Truck, money taken from the central bank of our nation effects not only local banks, but impacts the stock market as well. What would cause someone to run into traffic, risking their life for a green piece of paper? A confused and darkened heart.

The Bible talks about the human “heart”. Now, the Scripture is not speaking of that muscle in your chest. The physical heart pushes blood through your body. If the physical heart stops beating, your life on this earth stops. The spiritual heart is the center most part of your soul.

What is IN the spiritual heart is manifest in what you OUTWARDLY do. Religion cannot fix a heart problem.

Our Lord Jesus put it this way. Jesus chastised the religious Pharisees of his day – because they twisted the Word of God to make allowance for their sinful practices. Their are many in our world who do that today – you might be one of them! Jesus told the Pharisees:

Matthew 15:7-9 (ESV) You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

Preach: Jesus said of the Pharisees, their heart is far from Me”. God gave us His Word, the Holy Bible, to show us His Standard and His Savior. We are to follow His Savior Jesus Christ with all our hearts. We are to love God with all our hearts. Jesus came to this earth not just to heal our physical bodies, but to fix our heart problem. He said:

Matthew 15:10-11, 17-20 (ESV) … “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” … 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.

When we look around our America today, around our homes, in our schools, what do we see? Certainly there are good things out there. Certainly there are good people. But I’ll guarantee you, there were a lot of “good” people who stopped traffic to pick up and, yes, steal money that was not their own. They did not earn that money. They had a heart problem.

Jesus came, not to be a Hero, a conquering King,
but to be a Healer of our hearts.

What is the cause of evil thoughts, like racism and hatred?
What leads to murder?
Why would a person abandon his wife and child to sleep with another woman?
Why do we see such sexual immorality in America today – often in Churches?
Why do thieves steal?
Why would a person bear false witness and slander another soul?

These things come from a corrupt heart. Every evil we see in America, shouting out from the headlines, every injustice can be traced back to a corrupted heart. The corrupted heart says,

I am all that matters. I am the center of the universe.”

We are born with corrupted hearts. We come into this world with hearts focused on ourselves, on our wants and desires. We see this illustrated in our text today.

Jesus Is The Healer Of Broken Hearts

Luke 17:11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.

The Lord Jesus is traveling across the land, walking from one point to another. Why? Jesus did not just stay in Jerusalem and Judea. The Bible says that “He came unto his own” (John 1:11), but “His own would not receive Him”. Jesus Christ came not just for the Jew, but for whosoever will. Our Lord Jesus came to share the Gospel with “the Jew first, but also the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). He came not to just convert the hearts of the physical seed of Abraham, but Jesus Christ came to fulfill the promise that God made:

Genesis 12:3 (ESV) … in you {Abraham} shall all the families of the earth be blessed ..

Jesus is called of God to preach the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the King of the Kingdom of God. Repent, and give your hearts to Him!

When the heart puts anything or anyone on its throne, wickedness is the output of that life. The Bible tells us that:

Mark 1:14-15 …(ESV) after John {The Baptist} was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

John the Baptist ministered and preached of the coming of the Messiah, the One that God promised would come to this earth to fix what ails us. John preached, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). Then the King came. There is no Kingdom without a King, and John preached that the King was coming. Then one day John saw Jesus.

John 1:29 (ESV) BEHOLD, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world!

Jesus takes away the sin of the world by paying for our sins on the Cross. He is the Lamb of God. Jesus takes away the sin of the world by entering our lives and by ruling our hearts.

John was pointing out Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is not only the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world, but Jesus is the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”. Jesus is the Conquering Lamb of Revelation 17:14. Jesus Christ is the Avenging Warrior of Revelation 19:16. Jesus is, according to the Scripture,

1 Timothy 6:15 (ESV) … who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords

John preached on the coming of Jesus, until Jesus came. Then John was imprisoned, but Jesus kept preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. Jesus preached,

Mark 1:15 … The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel

Jesus preached the Gospel. He called people to Himself. Jesus is to be our King. Jesus said “Follow Me”:

Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. (Matthew 4:19)
Follow Me, and let the dead bury the dead. (Matthew 8:22)
Follow Me, Matthew, and leave your money behind. (Matthew 9:9)
Follow Me, and take up your Cross. (Matthew 10:38)
Follow Me
, and deny yourselves. (Matthew 16:24)
Follow Me
, and give away all that you now worship. (Matthew 19:21)

Your heart is desperately wicked. If you are on the Throne of your heart. You are your own god. The kingdom of god – little g – is within you. Repent! Turn away from all the gods and goddesses that you have treasured up to this point. If your family is your god, REPENT! Jesus said:

Luke 14:26 (ESV) … If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

But” you object, “doesn’t the Law say that we are to honor our father and mother?” (Exodus 20:12). Yes, it does. Jesus is not saying that we actually despise our loved ones, but that we are to love Jesus MORE than we love our loved ones on this earth. I am not to rest on the throne of my heart, nor am I to elevate others as idols on the throne of my heart. When God gave us the Ten Commandments, the first of the Commandments was NOT to honor your father and mother. The FIRST of the commandments is to PUT GOD FIRST. God has said:

Exodus 20:3-4 (ESV) … you shall have NO OTHER GODS before Me. 4 You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in Heaven above or that is in the earth beneath … 5 You shall not bow down to them nor serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God …

God is to be King of our hearts. “Know that the LORD, He is God! It is HE Who made us, and we are His..” (Psalm 100:3). Jesus Christ is God Incarnate, God amongst us, the King come to visit His people. When Jesus preached …

The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand;
repent and believe in the Gospel.”

He was preaching the same thing John the Baptist was preaching. Jesus Christ is the long awaited Messiah. He is the Son of God come down to this earth to redeem us from our broken hearts, to fix what ails us. When a person is saved that person makes a God guided decision to put away all other gods and goddesses – and to embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. At that moment Jesus goes onto the throne of our heart.

We are saved, and God the Holy Spirit begins to work in our lives.

Surrender To Jesus Is The Solution To Our Need

When John the Baptist was imprisoned for his faith, he sent messengers to Jesus with a simple question:

Matthew 11:3 (ESV) “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

John has been imprisoned, tortured, starved, and will soon be beheaded. In the midst of this darkness, John began to wonder if, perhaps, he had stood up for the wrong messiah. At this time in Israel’s history there were many who professed to be “Messiah”, people who would save Israel from the Roman Empire. Yet one after another of these false messiahs were captured, killed, and became nothing but a brief blip on the radar of humanity. The Blessed Physician further expands this questioning by the great Prophet John:

Luke 7:21-23 (ESV) In that hour {Jesus} healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

When John’s men came and asked Jesus if He were God Incarnate, the Messiah, Jesus did not immediately answer. Instead Jesus healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind {Jesus} bestowed sight. The Pharisees said that Jesus “cast out devils by the prince of devils” (Matthew 9:34; 12:24). Yet the Bible says that when the Messiah came:

Prophecy Revealed: Isaiah 35:5-6 (ESV) Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.

This is the Scripture Jesus was alluding to. When the Messiah came, the blinde shall see, the lame walk, the lepers would be cured, the dead would be brought back to life (see also Isaiah 26:19; 29:18; 61:1). Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Jesus Christ is the King of the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ is God the Son, and the Son of God.

Luke 17:11-13 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

The Bible tells us that ten men that were lepers cried out to Jesus. They had heard that Jesus was passing through, and had heard how Jesus was healing people. These men stood afar off. Why didn’t they come up to Jesus? Because Leprosy was a horrible and contagious disease that could kill God’s Israel. As a result, those who were lepers were set apart – extremely quarantined – by the Law of God. The scripture says:

Leviticus 13:45-46 (ESV) “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ 46 He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.

These ten men – all nameless and unknown – are in a miserable place. They are lost to their families. They have no business they can conduct. They are shunned by society, He is unclean. He shall live alone. The leper is not supposed to enter the city. They are not allowed to ride in the back of the bus, nor in a segregated part of the restaurant. They are unclean, cast off and cast out. They have lost everything. If someone touches these lepers, that person becomes, according to the Law, unclean. The lepers stood afar off. They cried out:

Jesus, Master, have mercy on us

Word Study: Notice how they call to Jesus. He is ἐπιστάτης epistátēs, {pronounced ep-is-tat’-ace}, which means “The One Who is in Charge”. Jesus is the One in charge.

Who is in charge of your life? Do you pursue a little “g” god,
or is Jesus your epistátēs, your God?

Jesus is the Gospel. He is the King of God’s Kingdom. Jesus is the Savior and Lord of His people. Jesus is the YHWH – the Great I AM that the Prophet Jeremiah spoke of in Jeremiah 23:6. Jesus became the Son of Man – Incarnate – through the operation of the Holy Spirit of God on a virgin named Mary. He entered the human story by clothing Himself with flesh. But Jesus Christ is God the Son. He is epistátēs, the Master, the King of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus controls nature. When Peter had toiled all night and caught no fish, Jesus sent him back out. Master, epistátēs, we have toiled all night. But we will do as you say. (Luke 5:5). When Peter did as Jesus said, he caught so many fish that they broke the nets. Not long after that Jesus is in the boat sleeping with Jesus when a storm arises. They wake up Jesus saying “Master, epistátēs, we perish!” (Luke 8:24). Jesus rises – raises a hand – and the wind and sea calm down.

Jesus is greater than the Law or the Prophets. Peter, James, and John accompany Jesus to a mountain one day, and there see Him transfigured and speaking to Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:33). Afterward Peter says, “Master, epistátēs, let us make three altars here – one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah”. God the Father spoke from Heaven, “This is My Beloved Son: Hear Him” (Luke 9:35).

Jesus is greater than any need you have. A woman with uncontrollable bleeding reached out to, and touched Jesus. With just one touch she was healed. “Master, epistátēs, we do not know who touched You” (Luke 8:46). When the woman fell down before Jesus, affirming that she had touched Him, Jesus said:

your faith hath made thee whole; go in peace(Luke 8:48)

Jesus Christ is the epistátēs. He is the One and only Master. He is the King of the Kingdom. Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. The lepers stand far off. But Jesus sees them:

Luke 17:14 And when {Jesus} saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

The men heard Jesus’ words. Jesus told them to go to the priests. Why? Because Jesus honored the written Word of God.

According to the Law, only the priest of Israel could declare someone cleansed of leprosy. In the first recorded sermon Jesus preached, He said:

Matthew 5:17-18 (ESV) “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Jesus did not come to give us a “loophole” by which we can sin without guilt. Jesus fulfilled the animal sacrifices of the Law, but did not eradicate the righteousness of the Law.

The Law required that the healed leper present themselves to the priest. Once the person was recognized cleansed or leprosy, he was to make a sacrifice to God (Leviticus 14:4-7). Two birds were used. One bird was killed, and its blood sprinkled on the cleansed person and on the living bird. This was highly symbolic of what would one day come through Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus was sacrificed outside the camp (Hebrews 13:11-13) for our sins. Our Lord Jesus is resurrected, ascended back to Heaven to guarantee our salvation (John 3:13; 6:38). Our Lord Jesus “became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (Acts 2:27; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The Bible says, as they went, they were cleansed. Jesus healed these men, but they had to obediently go to the priest, and make sacrifice unto God. They had to do what Jesus said do. Read a little further:

Luke 17:15-18 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.

Ten men called Jesus Master, epistátēs. Yet only nine really regarded Jesus as the Master, as the Son of God. All ten went to the priest, who offered sacrifice for them and pronounced them clean. But only one person returned to praise God for Jesus.

Only one leper was fixed where it mattered, in his heart. The other nine still had themselves on the throne of their hearts. If you are born again, you will return to Jesus. You will give glory to God by bowing your knee to Christ Jesus. Jesus is God incarnate, God in the flesh, saving us!

We do not know the nationality or the color of the other nine men that refused to return to and worship Jesus. We do know who the returning man was. Jesus calls him a strangerand a Samaritan”. The one who worshiped Jesus is a Gentile. Jesus tells this man:

Luke 17:19 … Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Faith In Jesus Alone Makes Us Whole

Word Study: The phrase hath made thee whole is the Greek σώζω sṓzō, {pronounced sode’-zo}, which means “has saved you from suffering, from sin, from Messianic judgment”. Jesus is not speaking about the man’s leprosy. His leprosy was healed – along with the other nine lepers – when he presented himself to the priest as God the Son commanded. Here Jesus is speaking not of temporal salvation from suffering, but the salvation of the soul. The word sṓzō is first used in the New Testament in:

Matthew 1:21 … and {Mary} shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS, for He will SAVE (sṓzō) His people from their sins.

When Jesus was asked “Why do You spend so much time with sinners?”, He replied:

Matthew 18:11 For {I} the Son of Man is come to SAVE (sṓzō) that which was lost.

On the Day of Pentecost the Apostle Peter preached:

Acts 2:21 … whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be SAVED (sṓzō).

When commanded not to preach the Name of Jesus, Peter boldly said:

Acts 4:11-12 … {Jesus} is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be SAVED (sṓzō).

After pronouncing this man “saved”, his heart renewed and regenerated because of his faith in Jesus, the Pharisees asked:

Luke 17:20-21 … when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

The Pharisees were asking the same question I hear people asking today. You see, Israel was in bondage to Rome. Would Jesus be the One Who led Israel in revolt, to bring about peace and freedom from the enemy? Jesus did not come to “fix” Israel, nor to “fix” Rome, nor to “fix” America. Jesus came to fix the human heart. An ancient Pastor name Augustine said:

You have made us for Yourself, O Lord,
and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

Where is your heart resting today? Beloved, open your heart to Jesus. Do not harden your hearts to His plea. Jesus came to this earth to save the broken hearted – He came to save those who believe in Him. I beg you, please receive Him as your Lord and Savior! Holy Spirit, please do this work. Touch lives for God’s glory. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen and Amen.

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Likewise …

Photo by Kaique Rocha: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-hand-and-crescent-moon-447329/

Last Wednesday night we looked at the qualifications and responsibilities of ELDERS in the local Church. ELDERS are not OLD PEOPLE. The Biblical definition of an ELDER is

Someone mature and maturing in the faith of Jesus Christ. Someone who spends regular time in the Christian disciplines of prayer, Scriptural study, and productive assembly with the Saints”

Elders are NOT to “be lords over God’s heritage, but … examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). Let’s continue our study:

1 Peter 5:5-7 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

There are two poisons that the Holy Spirit through Peter the Chief Apostle now addresses: PRIDE and WORRY.

Salvation Requires Surrender To God.
Pride & Worry Are The Opposites Of Surrender.

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon {God};
for {God} careth for you

Word Study: The word translated care is the Greek μέριμνα mérimna, {pronounced mer’-im-nah}, which literally means “distractions caused by anxiety, worry”. When our Lord Jesus talked about the “Gospel Seed” and the things that can destroy that seed from blooming into a right relationship with God, He said:

Matthew 13:3-4, 7, 22 … Behold, a sower went forth to sow {the Gospel}… 4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell … 7 among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them … 22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the Word; and the CARE mérimna of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

CARE or WORRY can cause a person to hear the Gospel message, and then to walk away without receiving the seed. When a person hears the Gospel, Jesus warned us all to count the cost” (Luke 14:28) before giving our lives to Him.

To follow Jesus is to “forsake all that you have” (Luke 14:33)

Luke 14:26-27 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

The devil has crept into the Gospel message of many churches over the past 50p years of so, and has suggested that you can be saved without total surrender to Christ. This is a lie from hell.

You cannot be saved, and still be sick with sin. (Romans 6:1-2; 6:15)
You cannot be saved, and still abide in darkness. (1 John 1:7; John 12:46)
You cannot be saved, and carry hatred or racism in your heart. (1 John 4:20)
You cannot be saved, and ignore Christ’s commands. (1 John 2:4)
You cannot be saved, and not be born again. (John 3:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:23)
You cannot be saved, and not be a new creature in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

If you hear a preacher preaching salvation WITHOUT
REPENTANCE, then RUN, for this is devilish doctrine.

Pastor C.H. Spurgeon stated:

Grace which does not make us hate sin is false grace. We must preach repentance from dead works, and faith which works by love, and the people must be told that Christ has not come to save men in their sin but from their sin. On this we will be clear as the sun at noon.”

Salvation requires surrender to God. Salvation will make you different than the world, and thus hated of the world, just as it hates Jesus (John 15:18, 25). The darkness will always hate the light. There are many who hear the Gospel preached who, being in anxiety as to how it will effect their marriages, their relationship with their friends, and perhaps even their jobs, reject Jesus. Nine times out of ten people reject the Gospel out of PRIDE and ANXIETY or WORRY. If you come to God with empty hands, repenting of your old way of life and casting yourself upon Him, then you have His promise:

Hebrews 7:25 … to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Let’s look at the word (God} “careth”.

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon {God};
for {God} careth for you

Word Study: Here is why I like to look at the original text of Scripture, and not just the King James. The word “” is the Greek mérimna, but the word careth (though the KJV links the former word with the latter) is an entirely different word, which is μέλω mélō, {pronounced mel’-o}. This word means “to care about, to be deeply interested in, to have concern for”. Whereas mérimna refers to anxiety, worry, mélō means that “God is concerned about the smallest areas of your life, and watches over or focuses on you”.

When we begin to obsessively worry about events that are occurring in our lives, this is actually a function of PRIDE. We want to be in charge of every little thing. Yet there is no blessing in this way of living. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us:

Matthew 6:26-34 (NKJV) Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

We are told to “cast all our anxieties on God”. Why? “Because God is FOCUSED on our lives”. We are His children, if we have been born again by faith in Christ. God paid the greatest price for us that He could have paid. The Bible says that

1 Corinthians 15:3 … Christ died for our sins

1 Peter 2:22-25 {Jesus} committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. 23 When He was reviled, he did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to {God} who judges justly. 24 {Jesus} Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

God the Father and God the Spirit gave the most precious thing He could for our salvation. God gave His Son to the bloody Cross of Calvary. God paid the MOST for you at salvation when He sent His Only Begotten Son to die for your sins:

John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because He hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

God gave more for your salvation than BILLIONS of dollars. He gave His Son. It is ARROGANT to believe that god gave so much for my salvation, that God will not CARE FOR HIS INVESTMENT. You are God’s investment. You are God’s Workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).

If you are saved, you should not let worry or anxiety control you. You are to be controlled by the Love of Christ and by the Holy Spirit.

If it is true that “While we were yet helpless, Jesus died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6), and that “Jesus gave Himself to rescue us from this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4), and that “all things work together for GOOD to those who love the Lord, for those who are called according to HIS PURPOSE”, THEN WE NEED NOT WORRY. Worry and anxiety are useless things that lower our faith, and introduce the horrible sin of unbelief into our lives. The Contemporary Christian Group Cain sing in their song “I’m So Blessed”:

Trouble knocking at my door today
I ain’t gonna let it in
And worry wanna steal my joy away
But I ain’t gonna let it win
‘Cause on my best day, I’m a child of God
On my worst day, I’m a child of God
Oh, every day is a good day
And You’re the reason why
I’m so blessed, I’m so blessed
Got this heartbeat in my chest
No, it doesn’t matter about the rest
If I got You Lord, I’m so blessed

As We Surrender To God, We Surrender To One Another

1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

The Elders – those who have a regular relationship with Jesus Christ through exercise of the Christian Disciplines (Prayer, Bible Study, Christlike Service) – are to be leaders in the Church. But they are not to be dictators.

The heart of Christianity is SUBMISSION. You cannot be saved without submitting to Christ. You cannot be a Church without submitting to one another. Be “CLOTHED” with humility.

There is absolutely no organization EVER that functions without submission. In the Godhead though Father, Son, and Spirit are all co-equal and co-eternally God, all three Persons voluntarily submit to each other respecting the roles they perform.

The Father sends the Son into the world (1 John 4:10)
The Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus and
proceeds from the Father (John 14:26; 15:26)

My commentary notes:

“… our salvation is based on the Father’s power and love (John 3:16; 10:29), the Son’s death and resurrection (1 John 2:2; Ephesians 2:6), and the Spirit’s regeneration and seal (Ephesians 4:30; Titus 3:5).”

SUBMISSION is not a dirty word. A business cannot run without submission. The military cannot effectively defend us without submission. No Church long remains a Church without submission. And marriage along with the FAMILY cannot thrive without submission.

A few years ago the Southern Baptist Convention revised our Baptist Faith and Message in the area of marriage. The statement

A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.”

was added – and the uproar was heard around the world! “Women submit to their husbands! How dare the Southern Baptists! Don’t they know we are in the twenty-first century?” The liberal news channels on television had a field day, and feminist after feminist stood before the microphone to tell off us confused Baptists and our so called “Faith and Message”. Yet if you actually read the Baptist Faith and Message you would read:

The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.”

This is Biblical, not humanist. We are called to – in the marriage – “submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21-23). Pastor and Author Randy Alcorn wrote:

“… the same Bible that says women are to submit to their husbands also says that a husband and wife are one (Matthew 19:6 and others). Fascinating parallel isn’t it? Does the Bible teach that women are inferior to men? Absolutely not. God made mankind (male and female) in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). But God does have different functions for male and female. Even in the natural realm, women get pregnant and men don’t. Men have sperm and women don’t. Within the God-ordained authority structure, men and women have functional differences even though they are one.”

We are told in tonight’s text:

1 Peter 5:5 yea, all of you be subject one to another

Our entire world fell into the destructiveness of sin because mankind did not practice SUBMISSION. Adam was told to submit himself to God, and NOT EAT that which God forbade. Adam was to care for the Garden of Eden and for Eve, but to obey God. Adam ignored the command of God. Eve was supposed to submit to her husband, but instead submitted to a talking snake (which was Satan, that old serpent (Revelation 20:2). Adam was supposed to be leading in the marriage, but instead took the forbidden fruit when Eve gave it to him. Where submission is lacking, nothing works right.

Salvation is not mine to hold on to, no more than it was mine to create. Salvation is a “gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are told in:

Titus 3:5-7 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

We are saved by Grace – not by works. But once saved, we SUBMIT ourselves to God, and turn away from the darkness of this world. We are told:

Titus 2:11-13 (ESV) For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

Jesus was even MORE SPECIFIC when He said:

John 10:27-30 (ESV) My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

I will be quite plain here. If you live your life on this earth without regard to what Jesus has taught then you are patently NOT saved. Jesus said, “Why do you call Me LORD, LORD, and not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). The saved follow Jesus. Who stands apart from God and refuses to follow and submit? It is Satan, and his fallen followers. It was Satan who first said:

Isaiah 14:13-15 … I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the [angels] of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: (14) I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High [God]

Pride makes of fallen man and fallen angels a god. Worry robs the Christian of the joy of the Lord, as well as the “peace of God that passes all understanding”.

PRIDE says “I can do this without God”, whereas WORRY says “I must do this without God”. PRIDE says “I am as good and able as God” whereas WORRY says “I am not able – but no one else is able either”. PRIDE wraps its hand around a thing and hold it up under its own power. WORRY wraps its hand around a thing and refuses to surrender it to the Greater Power of God. Both emotions – and their accompanying actions – are not only sinful, but they are destructive. PRIDE causes the young person to experiment with drugs and sex, and generally leads to terrible destruction. WORRY robs the life – even the Christian life – of joy and peace. How do we avoid these twins of destruction, pride and worry? We submit ourselves unto the Lord. We trust Him and Him alone with our lives. We turn unto Jesus, and keep our eyes on Him. We do as the Scripture says:

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Look at Jesus. Sinless, He was willing to come at the command of the Father into a sin soaked world. Perfect, Jesus sought out not those who thought themselves perfect, but the least among us, the sinners. Eternal Creator God, Jesus lowered Himself to become a part of His own creation. And perfectly innocent, Jesus willingly went to the Cross of Calvary to redeem us from Satan and sin.

Oh Beloved, let us put away pride and worry. Because Joseph’s brothers were proud and anxious, they sold their brother into slavery. Joseph overcame this horrible evil by casting all his anxiety upon God, knowing that God cared for him. When Joseph reunited with his brothers, he told them:

Genesis 50:19-21 (ESV) … “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

It was anxiety and pride that led King Saul to sacrifice on God’s altar rather than to wait for the Prophet Samuel. The Prophet told him:

1 Samuel 13:13-14 “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”

Pride and worry caused Herod to kill the babies of Bethlehem, and to cut off John the Baptist’s head. Where ever pride and anxiety have a home, blessing is lost, and souls are not brought to the Kingdom of God. The Bible tells us:

1 Peter 5:5 … God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

There are four young Jewish men that stand out throughout human history as those who followed the Lord. These men were the Prophet Daniel, and his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. King Nebuchadnezzar demanded that these men bow down and worship a golden statue of himself that he had commissioned. They refused – and were saved from a fiery furnace. Yet later in his reign, King Nebuchadnezzar was made to lose his mind, so much so that he began to graze in the fields like a cow (Daniel 4:25-35). It is so true that God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

How Do I Conquer Pride And Worry In My Life?
In Short, Find Another Hobby!

There are three positive steps you can take to conquer pride and worry in your life. First,

1 Look for a place of service in the Church. God puts us together as a Church on purpose. We are told in 1 Corinthians 12:18, “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose. Each part of the Church – much like the human body – must submit to the other parts if we are all to be blessed. When one part suffers pain, all parts suffer pain. When one part is blessed, all parts are blessed. God wants there to be “no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together”. (1 Corinthians 12:25-26). Find your niche, and then serve in it. Do not expect to be served or waited on, but work for the good of the Body and the glory of God.

2 Control your tongue. Ensure that you are glorifying God and blessing the Body with that little flap of muscle. The purpose every Christian has is to remember that not only I, but other Christians belong to God. The Scripture says:

1 Corinthians 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Be particularly careful with your tongue when you are offended or under stress. Try not to set a fire that will burn the Church down!

3 Take a look in the mirror, and realize that YOU are not the Church. You are just a PART of the Church. You need the Church as much as the Church needs you. Sister Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “The greatest disease in the West today is not tuberculosis or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.” Jesus said:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

Nowhere in the Scripture are we commanded to love ourselves. We are commanded to love others. John Stonestreet of Breakpoint notes:

The biggest factors behind the drop in life expectancy among Americans over the last three years are drug overdoses and suicides. In 2017, more than 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, and approximately 45,000 people intentionally took their own lives. These deaths, along with alcohol-related deaths, have been dubbed “deaths of despair” … {there is a} 30-percent rise in suicide rates among 15-to-24 year-olds … As the sixth-century theologian Isidore of Seville put it, “to commit a crime is death to the soul; but to despair is to descend into hell.” If there’s a better word than “Hell” to describe the despair we are seeing in so many American communities, I’m not aware of it.”

This world needs Jesus. This Church is God’s tool to bring the glorious hope of Jesus to a lost and dying world. Let us strive to be one as we reach other to other in His name, for His glory. Through God’s Holy Spirit I pray. Amen and Amen.

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I Am Not a god

Photo by ArtHouse Studio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/stone-mythical-creature-statue-in-jungle-4530527/

Turn with me in your Bibles to Psalm 117.

Opening Illustration: A cowboy rode into town, and saw a crowd gathered around a gallows. The hangman standing by, there was a man clothed in leaves and branches. Everything he was wearing BADLY was leaves. The cowboy dismounted his horse, and went toward the crowd. He whispered to another townsman standing there, “Are they getting ready to hang this guy?” He replied, “Yes we are, stranger. This man kept telling us he was a bush, and kept dressing up like he was a bush. We warned him to stop it, but he refused. So we’re hanging him!” The cowboy said, “Hanging him because he says he’s a bush?” The townsman said, “No. We’re hanging him because he won’t stop rustling”.

Yeah, that’s a “dad joke”, or you might think a “bad joke”. But it’s a good introduction to the message today. Every time I turn on the television or radio, I hear people pushing “You do you, and I’ll do me”. According to the Progressive mind so prevalent today we as humans can make ourselves into anything we want to be. If I’m born a woman, I can be a man with enough surgery. If I’m a man, I can have radical surgery and hormones and breastfeed babies. In fact, some say that men can get pregnant. If I wake up and think I’m a kitten or a dog, then what I say is reality. I can bark or meow, and you must treat me as a “furry”.

We want to be God. We think we are God. We Aren’t God.

This mentality creeps into the churches – even our Church. It creeps into your Pastor. I was praying this past Monday and felt like God told me to “Go to the middle of My Book”. So I went to Psalm 117. I kept trying to “get a sermon” out of this text until God reminded me, “You are not God. You are David.” So I stopped trying to make a sermon, and asked God what He wanted me to say. Read with me:

Psalm 117 O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him, all ye people. 2 For His merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.

Psalm 117 is not only the middle chapter of the Bible,
but it’s the shortest chapter in the Bible.

Don’t let this confuse you. Psalm 117 is packed with great truth. If the Bible were an Oreo©, Psalm 117 would be that creamy center that holds it together. Psalm 117 is one of the SIX Hāllel” or “Egyptian” Psalms (Psalms 113 through 118), so named by the Jews because they focus on praising God for His goodness and grace. The first and last words of this Psalm are:

Psalm 117 O praise the Lord … Praise ye the Lord

which is the Hebrew Hālal Yᵊhōvâ. The Hāllel was recited or sang before, during, and after many of the Jewish Feasts. Our Lord Jesus sang Psalm 117 & 118 just before His crucifixion. We are told in …

Matthew 26:30 (ESV) when they had sung a hymn (hymneō), they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Throughout the Bible we are COMMANDED to Hālal Yᵊhōvâ or “Hālal yâ” – Praise the Lord – over 250 times. Those who were most successful in our faith focused on Praising God. King David prayed:

Psalm 119:160-164 The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. 161 Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words. 162 I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil. 163 I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law. 164 Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.

It is no wonder that David was “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). David focused on praising God for the blessings – and even the cursings – in his life. Why are we to praise God? A few years ago an unbeliever named Michael Prowse wrote an open letter in the London Financial Times. He wrote:

Worship is an aspect of religion that I always found difficult to understand. Suppose we postulate an omnipotent being who, for reasons inscrutable to us, decided to create something other than himself. Why should he . . . expect us to worship him? We didn’t ask to be created. Our lives are often troubled. We know that human tyrants, puffed up with pride, crave adulation and homage. But a morally perfect God would surely have no character defects. So why are all those people on their knees every Sunday?”

God does not command us to worship Him because He is arrogant or prideful. God commands us to worship Him because we need to constantly remind ourselves, “I am not God”.

Only God is God. People are constantly asking me to be God. I cannot be God. I’ve been asked about the upcoming revival: “What if the revival gets rained on? What if there are mosquitoes? What if its too hot? What if a hurricane or tornado comes? The field is rough – somebody might twist an ankle!” Listen Beloved, I am not God. You are not God. We are to worship God the best way that we can, and constantly remind ourselves that we are not God. God is God. God is God.

Psalm 117 O praise the Lord … Praise ye the Lord

Our God is the LORD. He is Yᵊhōvâ. He spoke to Adam and told him:

Genesis 2:16-17 (ESV) … “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Adam heard Yᵊhōvâ. God made the instruction very clear. YOU, Adam, may not eat of it. God said nothing of Eve, but of Adam. God said, “Adam, I alone am God. You work for Me. You praise Me. You obey Me, and you will be blessed. But if you try to take on MY JOB, it will kill you!” Enter the Serpent. Adam sees the Serpent. Adam knows the command. Adam hears the Serpent (who is Satan – see Revelation 12:9) tell the woman:

Genesis 3:4-5 … (ESV) “You will not surely die {if you eat that which God forbade}. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Adam was intrigued. Yᵊhōvâ told him not to eat of this tree – but now this snazzy, talking serpent told him it was all right to do. Adam wanted to be like God. What did he do? He tried being God. The Bible tells us that Adam’s little experiment to be God did not work. We are told:

Romans 5:12 (ESV) … sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned

Romans 5:19 …. by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners

We praise the LORD because He alone is Yᵊhōvâ. We praise Him because He is God and we are not. We praise God not just on Sunday, but we worship Him throughout the week because He is God and we are not! The Bible says:

Psalm 96:4 (ESV) … great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.

There is only one “Capital G” God, and He is the God of Scripture. All other “small g” gods are figments of our imagination. When I was a little boy I prayed to Jesus and to Santa Claus. I asked Jesus and Santa Claus to come into my room every night. I imagined Jesus riding in the sleigh with Santa, circling over my bed, driving away the horrible demons that hid in the dark under it. Santa is a wonderful concept, a spirit of giving – but Santa is no god. Santa is actually a secularized version of a Christian named Nicholas, who lived around 280 AD in Patara, near Myra, Turkey. He traveled the country side, giving away all he had to help the poor and sick. Saint Nicolas never rode in a sled, and he was not a god – though He was saved by believing on our God. Only the God of Scripture is God. God told His Old Covenant people Israel:

Isaiah 44:6 … the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.

There is no God but our God. Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:9). We who are Christian affirm that for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6). The idols that people follow are nothing but man made gods. “We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one” (1 Corinthian 8:4).

Idols hurt people. When Adam tried to be God, he hurt the whole world. We are all born into sin because Adam did what he did. Idols hurt people today. In India there is a Temple where people worship rats. People bring food to the Temple, feeding these creatures and praying to them, even as these nasty animals carry

“… hantavirus, leptospirosis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV), Tularemia and Salmonella. Wild rodents also may cause considerable property damage by chewing through wiring in homes, car engines, and other places”.

In India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and Mauritius people are starving to death, while cattle are worshiped by the Hindu faith. Hindus believe that each cow contains 330 million gods and goddesses. At festivals honoring Krishna, priests shape cow dung into images of the god. (Source: “Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches” by Marvin Harris, Vintage Books, 1974). India has more cattle than any other country in the world, but they may not be eaten, but only worshiped – along with monkeys, cobras, and other snakes.

Hāllel Psalm 115:3-8 (ESV) Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. 6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. 7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. 8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.

Idolatry starves and kills a people. We may not worship cows, monkeys, or other animals, but we as Americans worship many things. We worship sports. We worship politicians. We worship things. We worship ourselves. Hey, “You just be You, and I’ll be Me”. You can be anything you want to be. This is idolatry. Only God is God.

Only God Is God, And Praise God, He Is Merciful To All!

Psalm 117 O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him, all ye people. 2 For His merciful kindness is great toward us

A Jewish prayer book of the Apostle Paul’s day – back in the early Church – had a well known and ancient prayer that the men of the Synagogue said weekly. The prayer was:

I thank You, O God, that You have made me a Jew, and not a Gentile.
I thank You, O God, that you have made me free, and not a slave.
I thank You, Lord God, that You have made me male, and not female.

That prayer may have made some of you uncomfortable. It sounds as if the early Jew believed that Gentiles (that’s us), slaves, and women are all inferior to Jewish men. The Jewish women would pray:

I thank You, O God, that You have made me a Jew, and not a Gentile.
I thank You, O God, that you have made me free, and not a slave.
I thank You, O God, that You have made me according to Your will.

So a Jewish woman prayed, believing she was better than Gentiles (that’s us) or a slave. Yet when God commands us to praise Him, what does He command?

O praise the Lord, all ye nations

The nations is the Hebrew gôy, which means “Gentiles, non-Hebrew people”. God calls on the NATIONS or the GENTILES to FIRST praise God. Then the Lord says:

praise Him, all ye people

The people is the Hebrew ʼummah, a reference to Israel. God wants the whole world to praise Him, for God equally values every person. There are no second class people with our God. Every person made is a person God made, and made on purpose. There are no mistakes with God. When God called an old man from Ur of the Chaldees named Abram to follow Him, God told this childless man:

Genesis 12:1-3 … “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

God told Abram, who would become Abraham “I will make of you a great nation. God would give Abraham a child, and through that child God would create the nation Israel. But God went on to tell Abraham in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. The word families is the Hebrew Mishpâchâh, which means “every class of people, every tribe, every kind”. It was never God’s intention to be God over just Israel, or just a select few. God calls all people to Him to worship. God was going to bless all of fallen humanity. He would use Israel to do this.

God would use imperfect and broken Israel to bring the Savior into the world. God used Israel to give us all Jesus.

God created Israel through a childless Abraham and a barren Sarah. God would give Abraham the power and stamina to have a child with Sarah, and God would make Sarah fertile. But God would do a much greater miracle through Israel. God prophesied that He Himself would enter this world as a Perfect and Sinless Man. God said in:

Isaiah 7:14 … the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

The word Immanuel” (ʿimmānû’ēl) means “with us is GOD”. Eternal God would become Perfect Man through a virgin birth. Why? Why would God so lower Himself? Because … hear me …

Psalm 117 O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him, all ye people. 2 For His merciful kindness is great toward us

We cannot save ourselves. Adam’s sin brought sin to all his progeny – that’s us. From the time Adam was cast from Eden with Eve, to this day and beyond, we are ALL SINNERS. A sinner cannot fix a sinner.

Romans 3:23 … For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Man tried to be God and lost Paradise. So how can man return to Paradise. Only God can do this for us. Only God can save us.

Romans 3:24-28 … Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. 29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

God the Father – through the Holy Spirit – sent His Son into humanity through a virgin. The Angel Gabriel told that virgin:

Luke 1:35 The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

That same Angel Gabriel told Joseph, the betrothed of Mary,

Matthew 1:20-23 Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

God’s only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, came into this earth through a virgin. Jesus came to be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of God’s Israel. To whom did Jesus come? For us all, whether Jew or Greek, whether Bond or Free, whether Male or Female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Jesus came for every person, no matter how broken. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Why do you eat with sinners?”. Jesus replied:

Matthew 9:13 … I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

As the Pharisees continued to criticize Jesus, He held firm, declaring:

Mark 2:17 … They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

God entered this world as a Perfect Man. The Messiah was prophesied to come to us.

Isaiah 9:6-7 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful {,} Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.

Jesus Christ came into this world – eternally with the Father, very God of very God – and lowered Himself to be like us (yet without sin). Jesus then walked among us, doing miraculous deeds, doing good where ever He went. Yet His primary mission on this earth was to be the One Who would give us all access to God. The Apostle told us:

1 Timothy 2:3-6 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

How is one saved? Not by our works, but by faith in the Work of Christ. Our Lord Jesus said:

John 6:29 This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom {God} hath sent.

Only Jesus can make a sinner right with God. Only Jesus can bring whosoever will to a place of saving Grace, and can translate us into the kingdom of God. Only Jesus can make payment for our sins. Jesus Christ is the True Manna from Heaven Who gives life unto the world (John 6:33). Jesus is the Bread of Life, that, if you believe on Him, you will never thirst (John 6:35). It is Jesus Who came from Heaven to do the Father’s will (John 6:38). What is the Father’s will? Jesus said:

John 6:39-40 (ESV) … this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

There is no other God but our God. We are not gods. But God became like unto us to reach us, and bring Heaven to us, and us to Heaven.

God’s Truth Endures Forever

Psalm 117 O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him, all ye people. 2 For His merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.

God’s truth never ends. What God has said is “sin” in the Old Testament, is “sin” in the New Testament. God despises sin. Sin is anything that makes us out to be gods. Sin separates us from God, and separates us from God’s blessings. But here is a truth that is eternal. If you will come to the Lord Jesus and receive Him as Lord and Savior, He will not only heal you of your sins, but He will bring you into union with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. We are told in:

Hāllel Psalm 116:5, 13 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. 13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.

Hāllel Psalm 118:8-9, 14 It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. 9 It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes. 14 The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.

I told you at the beginning that Hāllel Psalm 117 is the center chapter of the Bible. Many years ago three men were put to death – executed – on a hill called Calvary. The crowd mocked the Man in the middle, saying,

Matthew 27:40 … If Thou {Jesus} be the Son of God, come down from the Cross…

The thief on the left, dying, said the same thing to Jesus. Are You not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39). And Jesus said nothing. But the thief on the right looked at that Man in the middle. Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). It is faith in Jesus Christ that saves. The truth will never end, but is a golden thread that will draw each believer into eternity.

Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior? If not, today is the day to call on Him and be saved. For God’s glory, and through the Spirit’s power I pray this. Amen and Amen.

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Elders Among Us

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Last Sunday we ended our evening study with:

1 Peter 4:17-19 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? 19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

We are in a battle for the souls of men and women and children. Satan has from the beginning launched an all out offensive against the Church of Christ. His activity has tremendously increased over the last fifty years, beginning with the sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s, and today moving into the radical left with the “you be you and I’ll be me” movement. Satan has taken progressiveness into the classrooms where our children are being taught, seeking to drag all of America down a godless pit of humanism. John Stonestreet of Breakpoint wrote:

A few months ago, a friend told me of something that points to the level of cultural infection. She had asked a friend of hers, a junior high school teacher, how many students in {her} class identified as LGBTQ. The answer, offered immediately in a sort of “don’t you know this” tone, was, “Oh, all of them do”. “All of them?”, my friend replied. “Are they sexually active?” “Not at all”, the teacher replied. “But none of them want to be straight or cis”.

It is more fashionable to be transgender or same sex (or even bi-sex) oriented than it is to be plain old vanilla heterosexual. This is where America has drifted to.

We had a few Presbyterians come to our church when the Cumberland Presbyterians began to normalize sexuality that the Scripture forbids. They stayed with us a few years, then drifted back to their churches. Why? Because Satan keeps hammering through the media that what the Bible says is abnormal is actually normal. It is not fashionable to cling to the Word of God. It is as Jesus said:

Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV) Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

The narrow gate is traveled by few. It is uncomfortable. It is much easier to become a part of the crowd, to fade into the masses. But Jesus calls us to be the “light of the world, a city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). The Apostle asks this question:

1 Peter 4:18 … if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall
the ungodly and the sinner appear

Word Study: The word scarcely is the Greek μόλις mólis, {pronounced mol’-is}, which means “with much difficulty, not easily”. You could translate it “with much work”. It was much work to lead people to Christ in the days of Peter, and it’s getting harder every year. God can break through the hardness of the human heart, but Satan is, sadly, often more active than God’s children are. It is the Holy Spirit that must awaken the sinner to the Grace of God, but the Holy Spirit will not do His work if we do not do ours. The wondrous Gospel tells us that:

Romans 5:5 … hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. 6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

The world does not want to hear about Jesus – but we must stay strong in Him. We are going to have friction – difficulties – problems as believers sharing Christ with the lost. The Chief Apostle simply tells us:

1 Peter 4:19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

Trust in God. Keep your eyes on Jesus. And grow in your knowledge of God’s Word!

There Are False Elders, And True Elders

1 Peter 5:1-4 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

As the leadership in a Church goes, so goes the Church. Peter now begins to talk to the elders. This is the Greek πρεσβύτερος presbýteros, {pronounced pres-boo’-ter-os}, which is found sixty seven times in the New Testament.

Among the Jews, the presbýteros or elders were those who studied the Old Testament Laws and it’s teachings, the authorities.

The presbýteros were often Rabbis or other high ranking leaders in the Jewish Synagogues. The Jewish presbýteros got away from the Word of God, and started adding their own spin to that which God commanded. When these presbýteros saw Jesus and His disciples eating, they complained:

Matthew 15:2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.

These Jewish elders ignored the parts of God’s Word that they didn’t like, and created laws out of thin air to judge others by. Jesus chastised them, saying:

Matthew 15:3-9 Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, Honor thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. 5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; 6 And honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. 7 Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

The “elders” were not taking care of their aging parents, but abandoned them in their time of need. When asked “Why don’t you do something about your mother or father?” they would reply, “My free money is CORBAN, dedicated to God’s work and God’s Temple”. Then they wouldn’t donate the money, but would hide it. They did not love, and taught others to be equally loveless.

Tradition is not a bad thing as long as tradition is supported by God’s Word. The Jewish elders perverted God’s Command by their traditions.

Jesus told them, You hold on to the tradition of men, but lay aside the commandment of God” (Mark 7:8).You have made the Word of God of no effect through your traditions(Mark 7:13). These are not the types of Elders that God wants in His Church – nor in His Israel. These people HATED JESUS, and often joined in with other unbelievers to attack our Lord. Who was it that attacked Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane?

Matthew 26:47 … while {Jesus} yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders {presbýteros} of the people.

Who sat in the illegal night time trial of Jesus? The Bible says:

Matthew 26:57 … they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders {presbýteros} were assembled.

When it came time for Jesus to be executed, who was it that suggested to the multitude that Barabbas the murderer be released, and Jesus be crucified?

Matthew 27:20 … the chief priests and elders {presbýteros} persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

As Jesus hung on the Cross, suffering for our sins, who was it who led the multitude in tormenting our Lord?

Matthew 27:41-43 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders {presbýteros}, said, 42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. 43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.

And when Jesus resurrected from the Grave, who was it who bribed the guards at Christ’s Tomb to tell a lie?

Matthew 28:12-13 {the chief priests} were assembled with the elders {presbýteros}, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, 13 Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.

An “Elder” is not just a person who has a lot of Biblical knowledge. Several years ago one of my favorite Science Fiction authors Isaac Asimov wrote a comprehensive commentary on the Bible called “Asimov’s Guide to the Bible”. Published in two volumes, it was released in a single 1296 page volume in 1981. Asimov stated,

I am an atheist, out and out. … Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don’t have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn’t that I don’t want to waste my time” (Free Inquiry,Spring 1982, p. 9).

Bible knowledge itself will not make you an elder. The Rabbis of Jesus’ day knew the Bible, but not Jesus. The Priests of Jesus’ day knew the Bible, but not Jesus. Who is, Biblically, an “Elder”?

True Elders Look Like Peter, James, And John

1 Peter 5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:

The Apostle defines an “Elder” or presbýteros as someone like himself. Peter says, I am also an elder. An elder is someone who spends time with Jesus. Peter often spent time with Jesus.

  • Elders” makes themselves available to be with Jesus. When Jesus went to the Mount of Transfiguration to have an end times meeting with Moses and Elijah, who did He take with Him?

Matthew 17:1-3 … after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him

Jesus took special care to have three men – Peter, James and John – to be with Him at significant moments in His ministry. Why did Jesus take these three, and not the others? I believe it is because Peter, James and John were available for Jesus to meet with them. The other disciples were equally saved and called by Jesus, but Peter, when Jesus called Him, dropped everything to follow Jesus.

Peter, James and John loved to be with Jesus.

When the Ruler of the Synagogue called for Jesus to heal his little girl, the Bible says:

Mark 5:36-37 {Jesus} saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. 37 And {Jesus allowed} no man to follow him, {except} Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.

Peter, James and John did not have to be chased. Jesus didn’t have to run from pillar to post trying to find them. They stayed close to our Master not because they HAD to, but because they WANTED TO. Because they made themselves available to Him, Jesus used them. We see the same principle in the Old Testament as well. Moses loved to be with Jesus (John 8:58), and every time Moses turned around, who was there? JOSHUA!

  • Elders want to be Jesus’ shadow, regardless as to what others think. They allow Jesus to mold them. Peter was a rough fisherman, and yet he was willing to be shaped by Jesus. When Jesus met Peter …

John 1:42 (ESV) … Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

Jesus renamed Simon as Cephas” (which means Peter. Why did our Lord do this? The Bible tells us in Matthew 13:55 that Jesus was known as “the carpenters Son”. The word “carpenter” is the Greek tekton, which means “a craftsman or builder”. An article at Lifeway Leadership notes:

The majority of homes in Israel, as noted by Hebraic scholar James W. Fleming, are constructed with stone. Fleming explains: “Jesus and Joseph would have formed and made nine out of ten projects from stone either by chiseling or carving the stone or stacking building blocks.”

Jesus was a stone mason before He was known as Messiah. He called Simon “Peter” or literally “Rock” because our Lord was going to mold Simon like a mason would shape a rock. An elder has to be willing to let Jesus shape them, turn them into what He wants them to be. This is often a PAINFUL process. Yet the elder is willing for the Master Carpenter to hack and chip away all that is not God honoring and God glorifying.

  • Elders lead the Church to prayer and to the presence of Christ. The Bible says that, following Christ’s ascension:

Acts 1:13 {the 120 disciples} went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.

If you are infrequent in prayer, you will never be an elder in the Church. Elders build a habit of prayer, believing that “where two or three are gathered together in Christ’s Name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). Elders are prayer warriors. One of the Elders that followed Jesus, the Apostle James wrote:

James 5:13-15 (ESV) Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders {presbýteros} of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

Elders Are To Be Faithful In Doing Christ’s Work

1 Peter 5:2-4 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

Elders are called to “feed Christ’s sheep”. They are to grow in the knowledge of the Lord by study of God’s Word, and are to share what they know with the Church. The Elders are NOT bosses of the Church. The Apostle says, Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. They are called to live their lives as examples for the Church to follow. Right after Jesus rose from the Grave, He spoke to Peter, saying:

John 21:15-17 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

The Elders show their love for Jesus by caring for and feeding His sheep. How do we “feed” them? We do what Jesus said. When Jesus prepared to ascend unto Heaven, He told us:

Matthew 28:19-20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Elders are to teach the things that Jesus has taught them. We are to examples to the flock in how we not only know the Word of God, but live it out every day. This is what the Church desperately needs in these latter days. The Church does not need worldliness, but the Word of Christ. Let us live together for His glory. In Christ Name I pray. Amen and Amen.

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Live Like You Are Beloved

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Please turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Peter 4. Here we go!

1 Peter 4:12-16 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

I have always resisted the easy believism preaching of “God loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life”.

This type of preaching became popular in the later 20th century church, and often pops up in the current culture as well. I do believe that “God loves you”. But I’m not sure how “wonderful” the plan for your life is, as “wonderful” means “to inspire delight, pleasure or admiration”.

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. But we live in a fallen world absolutely opposed to the Biblical Jesus. If you live for Jesus, expect – at best – discomfort!

That’s what 1 Peter chapter 4 focuses on: S-U-F-F-E-R-I-N-G! I have talked with other Pastors who tell me they’d rather focus on the love of God and future Heaven, than they would on the darkness of this world. But Beloved, we live in a dark world. Not too long ago Canadian Authorities chased two brothers Damien and Miles Sanderson who killed at least ten (10) people, and wounded eighteen (18) more with knives. Why did they do this? Because we live in a fallen world.

Every dark and evil thing in our world today can be traced to sin. It is sin that separates us from God. It is sin that drags people down. It is sin that leads a person to alcohol or drug addiction. It is sin that creeps into marriages, and leads spouses away into adulterous liaisons. It was sin that caused self righteous religious people to destroy the twin towers in New York City, killing over 3000 people. It is sin that causes gender dysphoria, sin that leads to the same sex marriage, sin that endorses “free love”, sin that has caused the proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases, Monkeypox, HIV and AIDs. It is sin that has caused the breakdown of the family. It is sin that says a child is not harmed by being raised by one parent, though God has told children “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). The Apostle said:

Ephesians 6:2-3 Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; 3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

Long life is promised to those with father and mother. Break the design, you have harmed the child. Pastor John MacArthur defined the problem of sin this way:

The root of all sin is autonomy and replacement of God with self. However small a sin may seem, it is an assertion that the person is acting independently of God”.

A Christian Is Beloved, Not A Sinner

1 Peter 4:12 Beloved …

Word Study: God calls the Christian – and His Church – Beloved. This is the Greek ἀγαπητός agapētós, [pronounced ag-ap-ay-tos’], which means “Beloved, highly esteemed, cherished, favorite”. Those who are Beloved are reconciled to God because they have been redeemed by the Blood of Jesus Christ. Reconciled and Redeemed, we are considered righteous because we have received Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Because we are Beloved” (Romans 1:7), we enjoy grace and peace with God.
Because we are Beloved” (1 Thessalonians 1:4), we are chosen by God.
Because we are Beloved” (Colossians 3:12), we are holy and Heaven bound.

1 Peter 4:1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;

Let’s start with the first part of this statement. I am saved because Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh. Jesus Christ suffered for MY sins. Jesus Christ suffered for YOUR sins. He was nailed to the Cross by a lost world, but His suffering served the purpose of covering our sins in the eyes of God. But it did something else. When Jesus died on the Cross, He made it possible for the Holy Spirit to come into our lives, and the regenerate us (make us born again). The Spirit also indwells us forever because of the work of Christ. The indwelling of the Spirit makes the believer dead to sin. We see this preached throughout the Scriptures. For example:

Romans 6:1-7 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.

The old you died the day that you met Jesus as Lord and Savior. Those things that you used to do without regard to God, now when you do them they have the stench of sin on them. We who are saved do not want to be like the old man, but to be like the new man, the person anointed of Christ. No Christian should revel in sin. You have the Holy Spirit inside of you. The Apostle said:

Romans 8:10-14 if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. 12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

The “Christian” man who lives with his girlfriend, sexually violating her night after night without regard to the will of God, is but a plastic replica of the real. The “Christian” woman who carries a grudge against someone who harmed her years before but never feels a stirring of God within her against such things, is but a pretend Christian. Jesus said, “Every GOOD TREE brings forth GOOD FRUIT; but a CORRUPT TREE brings forth EVIL FRUIT. A GOOD TREE cannot bring forth EVIL FRUIT, neither can a CORRUPT TREE bring forth GOOD FRUIT” (Mathew 7:17-18).

Salvation brings a radical change in the life of a person. The “Beloved” of God, we are told,

1 Peter 4:2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

Those who are Beloved want to honor the God Who save them. Before we were saved, how did we act? We made life about SELF, about our own SELFISHNESS. We were like the other Gentiles:

1 Peter 4:3 … the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:

Word Study: Now you might think “my sins weren’t that bad”, but in the eyes of God they were that bad. We walked {past tense} in lasciviousness(ἀσέλγεια asélgeia, [pronounced as-elg’-i-a]), that is, some of us sought to satisfy our lusts. We walked in …. lusts” (ἐπιθυμία epithymía, pronounced ep-ee-thoo-mee’-ah), that is, “a longing for the forbidden”. We chased after false gods. We lived in banquetings” (πότος pótos, [pronounced pot’-os]), “drinking bouts or carousing”. You might say, “But I never did any of these things”, and that may be true. But before you met Jesus, YOU were your own god. You did what pleased you, which is what the world does. Jesus died a horrid death on the Cross of Calvary for you, just as He did for the murderer or the child molester or the rapist. We are the Beloved of God. We support the Will of God, not the want of Adam. We desire the smile of God over the grin of the lost. We are not self righteous, for we know we are born again not of our power, but of the power of God. But we do not revel in sin. The Christian declares:

Galatians 2:20-21 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

I follow Christ’s Law and God’s Will not to be saved, but BECAUSE I am saved. “If we be dead with Jesus, we shall live with Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:11). Not just in Heaven, but NOW!

1 Peter 3:18 … Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God

He Who has always been JUST and righteous and pure suffered for sins. Why? So that He could bring us to God. We walk with God now, not with the world.

Christians, Like Jesus, Are Subject To Fiery Trials

1 Peter 4:12-16 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

Word Study: Rather than preach “Jesus loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life”, Peter warns us that there is a fiery trial. This is the Greek πύρωσις pýrōsis, [pronounced poo’-ro-sis], which means “a burning by which metals are purified, a refiner’s fire”. When you ran with the world, in agreement with the things the world said, you could blend into the crowd. But when you live to honor God your Father things change. People believe Christians to be STRANGEthat you don’t agree with the things they say is right. They will SPEAK EVIL OF YOU, slander you and liable you. We are told this:

1 Peter 4:4-5 Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: 5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.

These unbelievers will be judged one day at a Great White Throne, a horrid affair mentioned in Revelation 20:11-12. The Gospel is to be preached to these – to all souls. Beloved, there is a hell. There is a Lake of Fire. It is a place where those who have rejected Jesus as Lord and Savior will hear:

Matthew 25:41 (ESV) Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

The Prophet Daniel called hell a place of “shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). Jesus said that hell was so horrible that:

Mark 9:45-48 (ESV) if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’

It has become fashionable today to believe that everyone by default – except those you don’t like – will go to Heaven. It has also become fashionable to believe that hell is but temporary, and that at worse you will be burned up in its flame. Yet Jesus spoke of hell when He spoke of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Did the Rich Man burn up in Hell’s flame. No. Jesus said:

Luke 16:23-24 … in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

Punishment and separation in Hell is just as eternal as is life in Heaven (see Matthew 25:46). Those who reject the love of God and the grace of God in Christ will forever be separated from God in eternity. They are “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). Because Hell is real, and because every sinner and every saint will stand before God, we preach the Gospel.

1 Peter 4:6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

The lost are spiritually DEAD. But we preach the Gospel so that they might become like us – condemned of the darkness, but ALIVE ACCORDING TO GOD IN THE SPIRIT. We hope to gain souls for Heaven. We hope to be instruments that God will use to bring the lost inbto the Kingdom of God. Jesus died for us all to bring us to God:

1 Peter 2:24 {Jesus} his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

But we need to be aware that, as Jesus suffered while on the earth fighting the darkness, we, too will suffer when we stand up for Jesus.

As Jesus Suffered To Bring Us Salvation,
We Will Suffer
Carrying The Message Of Salvation

1 Peter 4:13-14 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

If you are saved by faith in Christ, REJOICE if you are partners with Christ in suffering. Listen my dear friend. Many local churches today have twisted the Word of God to make it more palatable to the lost world. Many local churches fly rainbow flags, and preach “Love Always Wins”. I can point out numerous Scriptures that plainly declare those in sexual deviancy shall not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:20-21, et al.) The Blood of the Cross is not a free pass to wander away from God.

Those who are saved always pursue the Savior.
Those who are sheep always follow the Shepherd.
Those who are children of the Kingdom always follow the King.
Those who are sanctified always follow the One Who set them apart.

The Gospel we hear today is “God loves you. Just walk the aisle, then leave the Church and do what you will”. This is satanic, devilish, and not of God.

We who are saved “walk in the Light as Christ is in the Light” (1 John 1:7). We are called to pick up our Cross and follow Jesus. Jesus said …

Matthew 16:24-26 If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Expect to be hated of the world. Expect to be despised, belittled, made fun of – and praise God for it. Do not seek to be self righteous nor arrogant in your faith – but keep your eyes on Jesus! We are told:

1 Peter 4:14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

Expect to have enemies if you are living for Jesus. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, be happy over this. This is a proof of your faith, that the Spirit of Glory, that is, the Spirit of God is on your life.

1 Peter 4:16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

Beloved, if you live for Jesus you will suffer. Jesus suffered. Jesus suffered from the religious leaders. Jesus suffered from the political rulers. Jesus told us:

Matthew 5:10 (ESV) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

You cannot expect to get to Heaven without a measure of suffering. If you never suffer reproach, never suffer shame, never suffer any loneliness or isolation for Christ’s sake … then perhaps you are TOO MUCH LIKE THE WORLD. Jesus told us all:

John 15:18 (ESV) If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.

It is normal – in a battle – to have the enemy shoot at you. It is normal for the enemy to put forth propoganda to slander you. It is normal for the enemy to sneak into your outfit, into your unit, and sabotage you. When the writer of Hebrews spoke of our forefathers who stood up for God, He wrote:

Hebrews 11:32-38 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

In America we have avoided much of the persecution that Christians in other parts of the world go through on a daily basis. This is because America was founded on Christian ethics. But Beloved, I believe the same thing that Peter tells us:

1 Peter 4:7-8 … the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. 8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

Peter encouraged the Church to prepare herself, and to love one another fervently. The darkness has been gathering for years while the Church in America has languished and compromised with the darkness. It is time for us to rise up and, loving one another, let the world glimpse into the Kingdom of God. Peter ends with:

1 Peter 4:17-19 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? 19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

Let us honor God with our time, our talents, our temple, our treasure, and our ticker! If the Church does not stand firm in the preaching and modeling of the Gospel, then how can the lost be saved? They cannot. The Church is God’s Kingdom on the earth. Let us live for Him Who saved us. In Christ’s name I pray – Amen and Amen.

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Let’s Lose The Wrong Mind!

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1 Peter 3:8-12 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

Lose The World’s Mind – Pursue The Mind of Christ

As Christians (Christ followers), we are to be of one mind. As humans, we are always happy to be “of one mind” as long as it is our mind. But the “one mind” that we are called to have is “the mind of Christ”. This is what the Bible says:

1 Corinthians 2:16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

Preach: We have the Word of God, the Bible (Proverbs 30:5). “Every Word of God is pure: He is a Shield unto them that put their trust in Him”. We have the Holy Spirit of God indwelling us. “Even the Spirit of Truth; Whom the world cannot receive” (John 14:17). The Christian – born again of the Spirit – is given access to the mind of Christ.

The devil will do all he can to get us to rely on OUR mind or on the mind of THE WORLD. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).

We as believers are to with one mind and one mouth glorify God” (Romans 15:6). The Church must share the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ cannot be achieved without this key: “It is written”. We must head toward the Scriptures. This is where Jesus went in His teachings.

Jesus did not come to this earth and develop a new doctrine,
but to establish a New Covenant.

The Old Covenant required that people hear and heed the Law of God in their own power. God promised that – when the New Covenant came – that things would be different. God told His Israel:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

The distinctive feature of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant is NOT that God’s Law is abrogated – for Jesus said Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). The key difference in the New Covenant is that God will write His Law in our hearts. The New Covenant believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Romans 8:9). It is the Holy Spirit that guides us into all truth (John 16:13). Every believer under the New Covenant is indwelt with God.

Spirit Indwelt People Are To Pursue The Mind Of Christ

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

Word Study: Believers are to having compassion one of another, the Greek συμπαθής sympathḗs, {pronounced soom-path-ace’}, which means “to be sympathetic toward, to feel the suffering of another, to be empathetic”. Every human is connected to another human. No one lives in a vacuum! Christians in particular should be empathetic toward the condition of others in the Church. The Bible says that in the Church:

1 Corinthians 12:18-20, 24-26 (ESV) But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 24 God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Compassion asks “What do YOU need?”, not “What do I want?”

Our world suffers from a lack of compassion. The devil says that things matter. God says that people matter. All people matter. Every life matters. The Christian who has experienced the mercy and grace of God should appreciate the value of every human life. God made every person on purpose. Sadly, many in the United States and around the world have lost the sense of the preciousness and value of life. The American Psychological Association in a recent article entitled “Worrying Trends In U.S. Suicide Rates” notes:

The suicide rate increased 33 percent from 1999 through 2017, from 10.5 to 14 suicides per 100,000 people (NCHS Data Brief No. 330, November 2018). Rates have increased more sharply since 2006. Suicide ranks as the fourth leading cause of death for people ages 35 to 54, and the second for 10- to 34-year-olds. It remains the 10th leading cause of death overall.”

Word Study: Jesus came to heal the sick, to save the lost, to reach humanity with the message of God’s Love. We are to be compassionate toward others – especially our fellow believers. How does one show compassion? We love as brethren. This is the Greek compound word φιλάδελφος philadelphos, which means “show familial love toward others”. Treat others – particularly those in your local Church – as family. This concept is echoed throughout the Scripture:

Romans 12:10 (ESV) Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

1 Thessalonians 4:9 (ESV) Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,

Contextual Study: In this world we use one word for “love” – and it’s “L-O-V-E”. In the Bible, however, there are numerous words for “love”. In the Hebrew (Old Testament) we find:

– HESED, which means “lovingkindness”
– AHAB, which means “love”
– DOD, which refers to “romantic love”

In the New Testament Greek the words for “Love” are:

+ EROS, which refers to “romantic love”
+ PHILEOS, which is love between friends or brothers
+ STORGE, which is love within the family (brother to brother, child to parent)

+ AGAPE, which is to do good toward others, to be beneficial or benevolent

You are not required to “like” anyone in the family of God, but you are to “love them as family”, to treat them with the same respect you expect.

Word Study: Let’s go further. As family members in the Kingdom of God, we are told be pitiful, be courteous. The word pitiful is the Greek εὔσπλαγχνος eúsplanchnos, {pronounced yoo’-splangkh-nos}, which means “to be tender hearted toward another person, sympathetic”. The Pharisees never had pity on others. When Jesus went into the Synagogue and saw a man with a withered hand, our Lord had pity on him and healed him. How did the Pharisees respond?

Mark 3:2 (ESV) … they watched Jesus, to see whether {Jesus} would heal {the man with the withered hand} on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.

How hard hearted this is, and how hypocritical. Jesus asked them, Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill? The Pharisees were without pity, without compassion. When, in another Synagogue Jesus met a woman who had been bent over and disabled to 18 years (Luke 13:10-17), Jesus healed that woman. The Bible says:

Luke 13:14-17 (ESV) the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus ahad healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by {Jesus}.

If you can feed your animals, or get your ox out of the ditch on the Sabbath, surely God would allow the healing of one of His people on that same day. Self righteousness is not only misguided, but it is often discourteous. The ruler of the synagogue, if he had a genuine grievance, could have taken Jesus to the side to quietly address the matter.

We are to have pity on others, to be courteous and kind in all that we say and do. Jesus set a high standard of love for His people. The Royal Law our King gave us is:

John 13:34 (ESV) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

Love, compassion, courtesy, empathy for others are marks that a person is genuinely saved. Christians should love as Christ loved!

A mean spirited, bitter person is not saved. Christ is not in their hearts, and their destination is not glory with God in Heaven. The Scripture says:

1 John 4:11-12, 19-21 (ESV) Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. … 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

The Darkness Can Only Be Defeated With The Light Of Christ

If Christ has touched your hearts, He has also certainly touched your tongues, your hands, and your feet! We read:

1 Peter 3:9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

We are called as Christians to not return blow for blow, evil for evil. Under the Old Covenant God had a system called “Lex Talionis”, or the Law of Tooth and Nail. In those days there were no police nor military to recompense evil. When someone committed a capital offense, God gave the nearest living relative the authority to bring justice to the offending party.

Leviticus 24:19-20 (ESV) If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.

Under the New Covenant, Jesus removed this
provision from the Law
for the believer.

Matthew 5:38-45 (ESV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

The focus of the Church Age is to expand the Kingdom of God through whosoever will, to lead the lost to Christ. When we do God’s will and honor our Jesus, the Lord God blesses our lives. God extends our lives when we honor Jesus by loving others as Jesus did. We read:

1 Peter 3:10-12 (ESV) For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile {δόλος dólos, [pronounced dol’-os], meaning “trickery, deceitfulness, to catch someone with a snare or bait}: 11 Let him eschew (ἐκκλίνω ekklínō, [pronounced ek-klee’-no]) evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

Those who “love life”, that is, the ones who regard life to be a great gift not to be wasted are the same ones who “see good days” or enjoy life. How do they do this? They do this by controlling their attitude by first controlling their tongues. The Apostle is actually quoting from The Hebrew Hymnbook, from…

Psalm 34:12-16 (ESV) What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. 14 Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. 15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. 16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

Those who have the most blessed lives control their tongue and lips. They refuse to do the evil, but instead pursue Christ in their daily walk. When God’s Children do well, that is, love as Jesus loved, then God the Father will oversee us as He did His Son while He walked this earth. Beloved, you need to

Choose your attitude, and choose your actions. Do not let your environment or your feelings choose your actions. Do good, as Christ did good and does good.

The Enduring Word Commentary notes:

Jesus did not command us to like our brothers and sisters in Christ. But we are commanded to love them; and once we start loving them we will start liking them. … Doing good is often difficult because as a general rule, evil is rewarded immediately and the reward of doing good is often delayed. But the rewards of good are better and far more secure than the rewards of doing evil.”

How Do I Respond If The Good I Do Is Repaid With Evil?

1 Peter 3:13-14 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;

If you are a Christian, then you need to expect that you will be persecuted, hated, slandered, despised, thought of as weird or abnormal, and shunned. The darkness has never loved the light of God. The darkness did not come into the Garden of Eden as a Teddy Bear, or a cute Deer, but as a venomous Serpent. The Devil hates the Kingdom of God, and will do whatever He can to destroy it. Jesus told us:

Matthew 10:28 … do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell

As long as we are doing Christ’s work in Christ’s way, God will protect us and guide us through the various attacks we no doubt will suffer. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 118:6 (ESV) The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

Rather than focus on the attacks or the inevitable “what ifs” that Satan will attempt to put in your minds, we are told to draw closer to our God. We are to:

1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

Draw near to God, to His light, when you are being persecuted. Our Lord Jesus was persecuted for preaching the truth. We ourselves will be persecuted for speaking the truth. Speak the truth anyway. Jesus told us:

Matthew 5:10-12 (ESV) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus told us that “ ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:20). It is true that through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

1 Peter 3:16-17 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

When trials come your way, examine yourselves, to whether you are in the faith or not” (2 Corinthians 13:5). If you are in the faith serving Jesus Christ, then keep on doing that. If you are NOT serving God, but selfishly meeting your own needs and desires, then STOP IT! We are told:

it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer
for well doing, than for evil doing

When we do evil, evil has its own punishment. The Bible tells us that “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). When we move into darkness, we suffer the death that is unique to darkness. But when we walk in the light as {God the Father} is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7). The suffering we receive for doing good is but temporal, and finishes with a great blessing in Heaven. The suffering we receive for doing evil may last us a lifetime, and will rob us of eternal rewards.

Unjust Suffering Endured Will Lead To Victory

When you or I live as Jesus did, will there be times when our love and kindness is rebuffed and thrown back in our faces? Yes, that can happen. That happened with Jesus. Our Lord Jesus once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. But there are many who reject Him and His Cross.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

Jesus died on the Cross that he might bring us to God. He did this for “whosoever will”. And yet, many will reject Christ and die in their sins. In the next few verses we will read one of the most difficult texts of Scripture. Every commentary and Bible Scholar I have consulted have a different view of this text. We read:

1 Peter 3:18-20 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

The Apostle ties the ministry of Jesus Christ to the ministry of the Prophet Noah. After Jesus died on the Cross, He was quickened {made alive} by the Spirit. When Jesus died on that Cross, the world thought He was gone for good. In that three day interval our Lord went and preached unto the spirits in prison. Who are these “spirits”, and where is this “prison”? We do not know. What is this “prison”? It is a holding place that is not Heaven. We know from the context that these spirits were disobedient and stood against the preaching of Noah for 120 years while he built the Ark. God saved the eight souls who obediently got on the Ark, but the others all died under the judgment of the flood. When Jesus died on Calvary, He went and preached to these “spirits”, telling them He was the Messiah that was promised, the reason that the Ark was commissioned. Though we are left with many blanks, what we learn from this is that love transcends anything that evil can do. Love lives on, and preaches long after we leave this earth. Love makes the difference.

If you are saved, you are saved because Jesus loved you anyway. If others will be saved, we must share the glorious message that Jesus loves them still, and Jesus loves them anyway. May others come to the glorious Christ in faith, believing on Him, so that they might be saved. The darkness cannot be fought with darkness. We must walk with Christ in the Light. For God’s glory. Amen and Amen!

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We Desperately Need God In Us

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Please turn with me in your Bibles to Nehemiah chapter 13. In Nehemiah chapters 11 & 12, Nehemiah records the number and types of people that are staying in Jerusalem, as well as in other cities surrounding Jerusalem. The priests were recognized and ordained, and the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated to God. On the day the walls were dedicated:

Nehemiah 12:43 … they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.

It is important to understand that – at this time in history – God’s people were Israelis, and they all existed under the Old Covenant. Under the Old Covenant animal/blood sacrifices were necessary for the covering of sin. The animal sacrifices and Feasts were given for a temporary covering for sin. The Book of Hebrews tells us:

Hebrews 10:1-10 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Had the animal sacrifices been sufficient to cover sin completely then, the Scripture asks, why were not {the sacrifices} have ceased to be offered? because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. In the offering of sacrifices people knew that they were insufficient, so they came, year after year, and kept sacrificing. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of these animal sacrifices. He is the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36). We are told:

1 Peter 1:18-19 (ESV) … you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

The Temple sacrifices were to be maintained in Israel until Christ came. In order for these things to be maintained, the Temple and the Priests had to be supported by the people. In chapters 11-12

Nehemiah Reestablished Temple Worship & Bible Reading

Then Nehemiah returned to the Palace of Shushan, and to the service of King Artaxerxes King of Babylon. His appointment was to allow him to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls, and to guide the people back to the Law of God.

Nehemiah 12:47 And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel, and in the days of Nehemiah, gave the portions of the singers and the porters, every day his portion: and they sanctified holy things unto the Levites; and the Levites sanctified them unto the children of Aaron.

Things were as they should be, so Nehemiah was obligated to return to King Artaxerxes. The people turned to the Word of God:

Nehemiah 13:1-3 On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever; 2 Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3 Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.

Once Nehemiah departed, the people continued to read God’s Word. In their reading they came across

Deuteronomy 23:3-6 (ESV) “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the Lord forever, 4 because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. 5 But the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam; instead the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loved you. 6 You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever.

The Ammonites and the Moabites were cousins of Israel, the children borne of Lot, Abraham’s Nephew, when Lot slept with his own daughters. Though God gave the children of Ammon and the children of Moab lands of their own, the Ammonites and Moabites held grudges against Israel. When God led Israel out of Egypt the Ammonites and the Moabites not only refused to help their cousins, they hired a prophet named Balaam the son of Beor to curse Israel. The King of the Moabites said:

Numbers 22:6 (ESV) Come now, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.

Balaam went to God in prayer, and told God what the Moabites wanted. The Bible says:

Numbers 22:12 (ESV) God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.”

Though God told Balaam not to curse Israel, and he told the Moabites this, they persisted and Balaam went to do their bidding. But God stopped him by stopping his donkey, and actually spoke through the donkey to Balaam. Balaam went with the Moabites, but only blessed Israel. Though the Moabites could not get Balaam to curse Israel, in time they infiltrated the nation of Israel with their daughters. We read:

Numbers 25:1-3 (ESV) While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.

Israel Was In Bondage Because She Departed From God’s Word

Whereas they could not have Israel cursed directly, they led Israel into cursing themselves by binding together with their godless daughters. God sent a plague on Israel that killed 24,000 people until Israel repented and returned from the false gods unto the Lord.

It was because of their hard heartedness and godless worship of false entities that the Lord forbade the Ammonites and Moabites to come into the congregation of Israel forever.

Preach: God will save whosoever will, but under either Old Covenant and New God does not want His people to blend their faith with the lost gods and goddesses. Churches flying rainbow flags will one day have to give an account unto God. Pastors that have blended with the spirit of this age, and have endorsed sexual immorality will have to give an account unto God. Pastors who preach there are many ways unto God, or that there is no Hell, or that Hell is a place of annihilation and not of eternal punishment shall have to give an account. God does not believe in blending His faith with other faiths. False faiths give numerous approaches to God. For instance, the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, iv, 11 notes “Howsoever man may approach Me, even so do I accept them; for, on all sides, whatever path they may choose is Mine”. Yet the Scripture says of Jesus:

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes
to the Father except by Me.” (John 14:6)

To those who believe God’s exclusion of the Ammonites and the Moabites from the Congregation of Israel is racist, I can only point out that God gave Ammon and Moab numerous opportunities to repent. Once they hardened their hearts – like the Egyptian hoard hardened their hearts – all that was left was the wrath of God.

Nehemiah 13:4-5 And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah: 5 And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the corn, the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded to be given to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the offerings of the priests.

How was “blended religion” introduced into the Temple? It was introduced by Eliashib the priest. He befriended Tobiah, the very same Tobiah who was friends with Sanballet the Horonite, who tried to stop the rebuilding of the walls. Tobiah is an Ammonite (see Nehemiah 2:10, 19; 4:3, 7) who did all he could to destroy the restoration of the walls. Eliashib allowed Tobiah to move into a room in the Temple where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the corn, the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded to be given to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters. In other words, Eliashib rented out part of the Temple, a part that was supposed to house the treasury that supported the Temple staff.

Nehemiah 13:6-8 But in all this time was not I at Jerusalem: for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon came I unto the king, and after certain days obtained I leave of the king: 7 And I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. 8 And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff to Tobiah out of the chamber.

We Are To Do Good To Our Enemies,
But Never Compromise Our Faith

Eliashib’s compromise with Tobiah is regarded by Nehemiah as evil” (raʻ, [pronounced rah]). Jesus tells us to Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). But we always love God more. We do not compromise our worship and beliefs for the sake of pleasing the world. Tobiah did not belong housed in the Temple. According to the Law, only Levites and priests were to stay in the Temple (2 Chronicles 23:6), and only when they were on duty. When Nehemiah realized this was going on, we read I cast forth all the household stuff to Tobiah out of the chamber. Tobiah was an unbeliever misusing God’s Temple. Nehemiah wanted no part of it!

Nehemiah 13:9-14 Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought I again the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering and the frankincense. 10 And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field. 11 Then contended I with the rulers, and said, Why is the house of God forsaken? And I gathered them together, and set them in their place. 12 Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries. 13 And I made treasurers over the treasuries, Shelemiah the priest, and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah: and next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah: for they were counted faithful, and their office was to distribute unto their brethren. 14 Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof.

When compromise enters our faith, the tithe and the worship suffers. Nehemiah set the Levites and the singers back to work, and put men who were known to be faithful over the treasury.

Nehemiah 13:15-21 In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. 16 There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. 17 Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? 18 Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath. 19 And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day. 20 So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice. 21 Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath.

The people had drifted away from honoring God on the Sabbath Day. Nehemiah reminded the people that their violation of God’s Law is what brought their conquering and exile on themselves in the first place. What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath. God will not accept send place in our lives. He wants to be first in our hearts – and He DESERVES to be so. Nehemiah ran the merchants off and demanded that the gates of the city be shut on the Sabbath day, lest the people continue down this wrong path. The Enduring Word Commentary notes:

The New Testament makes it clear we are not under the law of the Sabbath in the same sense Israel was under the Old Covenant (Colossians 2:16-17), but we are certainly under the same obligation to make honoring God more important than making money or spending money.”

Nehemiah 13:22-27 And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy. 23 In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: 24 And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people. 25 And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves. 26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin. 27 Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?

Some of the Israeli men had drifted from God, and married pagan and unbelieving wives. They did this though God specifically commanded that Israel not intimately bind themselves with the lost. Nehemiah corrected the situation, some of them plucking off their hair. The people repented, and turned back to God. As the Book ends we read:

Nehemiah 13:29-31 Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites. 30 Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business; 31 And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.

Nehemiah did what he could to fix the problems of Israel. But there is one thing that stands out – besides the blood sacrifices of the animals – between the Old and New Covenants. Though Nehemiah could reference the Law, and at times resort to physical violence to bring the people into one accord with God – it could not last.

In Nehemiah 10:30-39 Israel had promised that they would not bind with unbelievers, they would not buy or sell on the Sabbath, and that they would support the Temple.
Their promise lasted about 10 years.

No human endeavor can last because of the sin nature of man. Christ had not yet come to earth, and had not yet paid for sin. Christ had not yet sent the Holy Spirit of God to indwell the hearts of His people. Thus, sadly, Israel will fall again.

The Temple that was built by Solomon was destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians because God’s people would not honor His Law (2 Kings 25:9). King Cyrus of Persia (Ezra 1:2) allowed the Temple to be rebuilt under the leadership of Zerubbabel. In 39 BC King Herod would take control of the Temple, and would restore and expand Zerubbabel’s Temple with the work finishing in 63 AD. This Temple would be destroyed just 7 years later, in 70 AD as the Roman Army moves to overthrow the First Jewish Revolt. What does all this show us?

You can be religious. You can keep the Law. You can follow God for a time. But if you are not born again of the Spirit, indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, your false faith will not last. No faith that is primarily of works will save. Salvation is by faith in Christ Jesus. The Temple died after Israel rejected Jesus Christ as Messiah. Today, those who are born again of the Spirit (John 3:1, 3, 7; 1 Peter 1:3) through faith in Jesus Christ are the Temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:14-16; Ephesians 2:21).

And this Temple cannot be torn down by anything but faithlessness. Let us bind our hearts to Jesus, for the glory of God forever. Amen and Amen!

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Be Of One Mind (Do You Really Believe?)

Photo by Andres Ayrton: https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-in-park-supporting-each-other-6551313/

1 Peter 3:8-9 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

I believe the Bible to be divinely inspired, that is, it’s writing was directed by God through His Apostles and Prophets. Every one of these 66 Books reflects the mind of God. As God never changes (Hebrews 13:8; Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19; Isaiah 40:8, et al), I believe each Book supports the other.

These Scriptures are 66 Books that are in one accord,
all to the glory of God.

Word Study: Since the Bible reflects the mind of God, I cherish and study every word. I hope you do, too. Let’s research our focal text for today. The first word in our focal text is Finally. I thought to look up the word Finally in the King James, and found the word Finally” SIX TIMES in the King James. It is in – by order:

2 Corinthians 13:11 FINALLY, brethren, farewell …
Ephesians 6:10 FINALLY, my brethren, be strong in the Lord …
Philippians 3:1 FINALLY, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord …
Philippians 4:8 FINALLY, brethren, whatsoever things are true ….
2 Thessalonians 3:1 FINALLY, brethren, pray for us …

In the first FIVE instances where FINALLY is found, this is the Greek λοιπόν loipon, which means “Finally, moreover, furthermore, henceforth”. This is kind of like when a preacher says, “Finally or in conclusion”. By the way, when I do this it means nothing at all :). Listen – the word translated FINALLY in our focal text is the conjunction (δέ dé, {pronounced deh}), which can be rendered “AND”, “THEN”, “NOW”, “BUT”. The conjunction ties Biblical truths together. When we read:

1 Peter 3:8 {dé – AND / BUT}, be ye all of one mind…

Does Your “One Mindedness” Extend To God’s Design?

This tells us to look at what came before verse 8. We are called of God to be ye all of one mind, for we experienced “one mindedness” through something that happened or was written earlier in the text. What did God through Peter discuss earlier?

Biblical Marriage

When Satan wanted to destroy Paradise, and to entrap humanity in sin, he did so by perverting Biblical Marriage. The Bible says that the serpent tempted Eve to eat that which was forbidden, that

Genesis 3:6 … she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Adam could have stopped the transaction at any time, but did not. The Biblical truth is that Eve – the woman – was not even created when God gave Adam the command NOT to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17-18). As a matter of fact, God never commanded Eve to work, guard, or tend the Garden of Eden. “The Lord God took THE MAN, and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Who caused the fall of mankind into sin? The Bible says:

Romans 5:12 BY ONE MAN sin entered into the world, and death by sin …

Romans 5:17 BY ONE MAN’S OFFENSE DEATH REIGNED …

Adam was the Keeper of the Garden. Eve his wife was called of God to follow Adam. By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). The Apostle said that the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning” (2 Corinthians 11:3, ESV). The Scripture says:

1 Timothy 2:14 (ESV) Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

God designed marriage.

God designed marriage in the Garden of Eden.

Biblical marriage is based on the pattern of the Garden.

When our Lord Jesus was asked about marriage, He replied, “Haven’t you read that He which made them at the beginning made them MALE and FEMALE?”

Obergefell v. Hodges: In our day Biblical marriage and human sexuality is under attack. But this is no different than any other age of humanity. It may seem more widespread, but mankind has, from the fall of Adam, drifted away from God’s standards. In America, in 2015 the Supreme Court heard the case of Obergefell {pronounced OH-bər-gə-fel} v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644. Jim Obergefell sued the state of Ohio because Ohio did not recognize same sex marriages as marriage. Jim – himself a wife by his definition – wanted his partner named John Arthur to be recognized as his “husband”. The Supreme Court

“… ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The 5–4 ruling requires all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and the Insular Areas to perform and recognize the marriages of same-sex couples on the same terms and conditions as the marriages of opposite-sex couples, with all the accompanying rights and responsibilities.”

The Baptist Faith and Message that we adhere to states that:

XVIII. The Family … Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.

The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.”

As God calls His people to “be of one mind”, He ties this to the context, which explores Biblical Marriage. The world not only MAY, but HAS defined marriage in ways that depart from what the Scripture says. This should not surprise anyone, nor should it be a great cause of alarm. Those who are unsaved “love darkness rather than light” (John 3:19). The Scripture says:

Proverbs 4:19 The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know over what they stumble.

The lost soul “does not know nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness” (Psalm 82:5). Our Lord Jesus could not change the hearts of those hardened by sin and self righteousness. Jesus said,

Matthew 15:14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.

If anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the Light is not in them” John 11:10). God has a standard – a design – for all things. God has a pattern for marriage. Those who love the Lord are to heed His pattern.

Do You Agree With God’s Pattern For The Godly Wife?

1 Peter 3:1-2 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.

At this time in Church history, many women who were married to unbelieving men were hearing the Gospel of Christ and were – by faith – being saved. Many of these women had questions about how their faith should effect their marriage. Now that a woman is saved, should she – out of love for Jesus – leave her husband who was an unbeliever. After all, didn’t Jesus teach? …

Luke 14:26 (ESV) If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

Should the wife abandon the unbelieving husband. Peter says:

1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, ye wives

Word Study: The word Likewise is the Greek ὁμοίως homoiōs, which means “In the same way”. In chapter 2, the Apostle said:

1 Peter 2:18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

The SERVANT was to SUBMIT their masters. Not to just the good and kind masters, but to ALL masters. Further we read:

1 Peter 2:13-14 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

The CHRISTIAN is to follow the laws of the land that are around us. Certainly we do not disobey the Word of God to do the word of man. As Jesus said, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). We never rob from God the glory He is due. But insomuch as His command of our lives is not abrogated, we are to obey the laws of the land around us. When the laws of the land commanded that the Apostles not preach the Gospel,

Acts 5:29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

Christians are to obey the laws of the land as long as we may honor God in doing so. Servants are to obey even cruel masters. And now we have, Likewise, ye wives.

When God created the institution of marriage (and God created it – not the Supreme Court), Man was to be the leader and Woman
the follower in that union. Only Satan endorses anarchy!

This concept has come under attack because of certain forms of feminism and social justice militants. People think that submission is to degrade, or to make lesser. The truth is, no unit comprised or two or more persons can ever advance unless there is a leader. Let’s consider

The Trinity of God: Who is the Head or the Leader of the Trinity? It is God the Father. The Bible says:

1 John 4:10 (ESV) {God the Father} loved us and sent his Son to be the {atonement or covering} for our sins.

The Father sent the Son. He told His Son to GO. When Jesus came He said:

John 6:38 (ESV) I have come down from Heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.

Jesus was SENT. Jesus was under SUBMISSION. Jesus submitted to the Father so much that He said,

John 14:9 (ESV) Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.

The Father GAVE the Son for our sins (John 3:16). The Father MADE JESUS AN OFFERING for sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane three times, Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done(Luke 22:42, ESV). Jesus submitted to the Father.

Does Jesus’ submission to the Father diminish Him as a Person? No! The Father said to the Son …

Hebrews 1:8 (ESV) … “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.”

The Son submits to the Father. The Holy Spirit submits to the Father, on the prayer of the Son. Jesus said:

John 14:16-17 (ESV) And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

Neither Son nor Spirit are diminished by submitting to the Father. Submission does not denigrate you.

Compound units like God, like Governments, like Businesses, like Militaries, like First Responders, like Marriages and families must have leaders and followers, or they will not long exist.

Russell Moore wrote:

In Scripture, every creature is called to submit, often in different ways and at different times. Children are to submit to their parents, although this is certainly a different sort of submission than that envisioned for marriage. Church members are to submit to faithful pastors (Hebrews 13:17). All of us are to submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Of course, we are all to submit, as creatures, to our God (James 4:7). … And, yes, wives are called to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 3:1-6). … “to your own husbands” (1 Peter 3:1)”.

What does God tell Godly women who are married to ungodly men to do? Leave them? No!

1 Peter 3:1 … Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the Word, they also may without the Word be won by the conversation (ἀναστροφή anastrophē, the way of life) of the wives

Peter – who himself was married (Matthew 8:14-15; Mark 1:29-31; Luke 4:38-39), lived for Jesus so that his wife could see how his life had changed. He now encourages women who are married to men who obey not the Word to live for Jesus, following the leadership of their husbands. A Godly and loving wife can make a great impression on an unsaved fellow. That man’s life is precious – Jesus died for him, too. Wives are to be in subjection to your own husbands. This is not to imply a woman should be degraded or humiliated by her husband. But that she should – insofar as it pleases the Lord our Savior – follow her husband’s lead. We are told:

1 Peter 3:2 While they behold your chaste conversation (ἀναστροφή anastrophē, the way of life) coupled with fear.

The Godly woman is the one who focuses more on her spiritual state than she does her outward shell. The Apostle does not say that women should not groom themselves, but that the priority in their lives needs to be their walk with God.

1 Peter 3:3-4 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

Word Study: No woman has ever nagged her husband to the altar of God. The Apostle tells the wife to not focus on her fancy clothing or jewelry, but to instead pursue a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. Let’s look at these words. Meek is the Greek πραΰς praÿs, {pronounced prah-ooce’}, which means “mild” or “humble”, Gentle of Spirit”. Our Lord Jesus preached in His Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek {praÿs} for they shall inherit the earth.

It is not the loud, the arrogant, the narcissist, the braggart that will inherit God’s Kingdom. It is the humble spirit that will stand with Christ in glory. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem just prior to His crucifixion, He rode in meek {praÿs}, and sitting on an ass” (Matthew 21:5).

Word Study: The wife is also to have a quiet spirit. This is the Greek ἡσύχιος hēsýchios, {pronounced hay-soo’-khee-os}, which means “one who pursues peace”. This is commanded of all Christians. We are not to go about stirring up trouble, but are to be peacemakers (see 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:12; 1 Timothy 2:2,11,12). The Apostle now refers to Sarah, Abraham’s wife:

1 Peter 3:5-6 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

Abraham is recognized in the Scripture as the father of faith. His wife Sarah is the mother of faith. She followed Abraham as he traveled following the Lord into the Promised Land. When Abram (young in his faith) asked Sarai to say “I am Abram’s sister” (Genesis 12:10-20), she did so, even though what he asked was faithless. God honored and protected Sarai, and later Sarah, as she followed Abram’s lead. Sarai never had to worry about being mistreated. Beloved, God will take care of you!

Do You Agree With God’s Pattern For The Godly Husband?

1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

Word Study: Earlier the Apostle addressed the wives with Likewise, ye wives. Now he uses the same form, but toward the men: Likewise, ye husbands. The word Likewise is again the Greek ὁμοίως homoiōs Likewise, which means in a similar manner, in the same way”.

The wife submits to the leadership of her husband,
but the husband submits to and honors his wife.

The Apostle Paul explores the man’s submission in the marriage in:

Ephesians 5:25-29 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

As Jesus loves His Church and gives Himself for us, we are to love our wives. We are to be willing to die for our wives as the need arises. We are to love our wives as our own bodies. Peter said – as the Spirit led him – that husbands are to give honor unto the wife. The phrase give honor is the Greek ἀπονέμω τιμή aponemō timē, which means “to bestow or dispense honor as befitting the rank of another, to highly value as a precious creation. Paul related the marriage between husband and wife as similar to the marriage between Christ and Church. Jesus bestows honor and blessing on His Church. He demands that we excel, and works through the Spirit of God to make us excel. Jesus Christ gave up everything for our benefit as His Church. In like manner, the husband – once married – is to give up everything to His wife.

I find so many young couples today who – after experimentally “living together” (something the Bible calls “fornication” [Ephesians 5:3; Galatians 5:19; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; et al] or “sexual immorality” [1 Corinthians 6:18; Matt. 19:9; 1 Corinthians 6:13; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:3]), they want to be married and yet remain single at the same time. The first thing I ask when young couples come to me is, “So whose bank account will be closed?”. I get some awfully silly looks. You cannot come into a marriage with an unmarried mindset. God has specifically designed marriage a certain way. In that marriage the husband leads the unit, the wife follows, and together they – with one mind – raise their children. The husband is to respect and care for his wife, following Christ as she follows him. The husband is to regard as unto the weaker vessel. She does not have the body strength that a man has. When husbands regard their wives as “weaker vessels”, this does not mean they are less spiritual or lower class citizens. The Apostle said:

1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life…

Your wife is just as valuable to God as you are. She is equally a believer-priest, with access to our High Priest, Jesus Christ. She is an heir of God just as you are. When salvation and the blessings of salvation are ministered by God, the Scripture says:

Galatians 3:8 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

It is in the marriage unit that we learn – through that intimate bond – how to respond to and interact with others. Going back to our focal text:

1 Peter 3:8-9 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

I believe that much of the madness that has grasped America and America’s Churches is because we as a nation has wandered away from God’s design for marriage. As goes the marriage, so goes the community and the country. If the marriage is a mess, then the fruit of that marriage, the children, will be a mess.

God calls His people to a better walk. We are not to render evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing. People learn to do this in the environment of a Biblical marriage. Children learn to respect authority in a Biblical marriage. May God lead you to the joy of a Biblical marriage! It is in this that you will inherit a blessing. And the good Lord knows, we as a nation need a blessing. For Christ’s glory, and through His Spirit. Amen and Amen.

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Christ Suffered & Left An Example

Photo by James Wheeler: https://www.pexels.com/photo/foot-prints-in-gray-sand-1522285/

The last time we met I closed the sermon with:

1 Peter 2:21-24 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

I thought this week to begin preaching through 1 Peter chapter 3. And yet, as I thought to do so, the Lord impressed on my heart that we need to more closely examine this passage – especially since today is Communion Sunday. Focus on these words for just a moment:

1 Peter 2:21 Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps

Christ Suffered For Us

The first part of this text I want to address is Christ suffered for US. Let’s define this. First of all, how did CHRIST SUFFER?

First of all, Jesus suffered DEMOTION for us

Jesus is the eternal Son of God, Heaven’s glorious King. When Jesus prayed before going to the Cross, He said:

John 17:5, 24 (ESV) … Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. … 24 … because you loved me before the foundation of the world…

God the Father loved the Son before the foundation of the world. Jesus Christ was with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit before creation was ever made. The Bible tells us that Jesus had a part in Creation. We are told in …

John 1:3 All things were made through Him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

When the Father said “Let there be light”, His command ran through Jesus Christ. When the Spirit moved on the face of the water, the Spirit’s power ran through Christ. The Scripture says:

Colossians 1:16-17 (ESV) … For by {Jesus} all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Christ Jesus, God the Son, is Creator God. All of Creation was formed through him and for him. The Father decreed Creation because He gave it as a Gift to his Son. Creation itself is HELD TOGETHER because of Christ. It is the love of Christ that keeps an asteroid from space from hitting earth, wiping us out. It is the power of Christ that holds all things together. Jesus is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. The Christian believes that:

1 Corinthians 8:6 … there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

When John the Revelator looked into Heaven, He saw Jesus sitting on a throne. All around Jesus there was worship, and casting of crowns, as the people praised God, saying:

Revelation 4:11 (ESV) “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

The Scripture tells us that …

Hebrews 1:2-3 (ESV) in these last days {The Father} has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the Heir of all things, through Whom also he created the world. 3 {Jesus Christ} is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…

Our Lord Jesus took a demotion, allowing Himself to be incarnate through a virgin called Mary. When the Angel Gabriel told Mary that she was to bear a Child, he said:

Luke 1:35 … The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

Holy God the Son, ever Eternal, was made lower than the angels for the suffering of death (Hebrews 2:9-14). Jesus allowed Himself to be made a HOLY THING, Someone never before seen in all of creation. God became Man so that He could pay for the sins of Man. The Bible says:

Hebrews 2:9 (ESV) … that by the grace of God {Jesus} might taste death for everyone.

Man is fallen. We have wandered from God, and are lost in the wilderness of Sin. So God sent us a Healer, a Hero Who would stand up for us. Jesus was demoted from God to Man for us.

Second, Jesus suffered DISGRACE for us

When Jesus came to this earth, it was not to a ticker tape parade, nor to a celebration in the streets. Jesus Christ was born in a little town called Bethlehem. The Bible says:

Luke 2:7 (ESV) {Mary} gave birth to her firstborn son {Jesus} and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Heaven rejoiced in amazement when Jesus was born in the manger than night, but earth barely knew it. A few shepherds came to see the “HOLY THING” called Jesus, but when they went out to tell others what they saw …. no one came. Jesus grew up in a small town named Nazareth. After John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the “Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), the Bible tells us that Jesus went out and began preaching. We read:

Mark 3:13, 20-21 (ESV) … {Jesus} went up on the mountain and called to Him those whom He desired, and they came to Him. 14 And He appointed twelve {Apostles}… 20 {Jesus} went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

His family thought Jesus had lost His mind. How could a Man be the Messiah? Yet Jesus declared He was the Messiah, that He was Eternal God in human form. Jesus told the Pharisees who constantly attacked Him:

John 8:58 … Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM.

Taking the most Holy Name of God to Himself. The Pharisees knew that Jesus was claiming to be God Incarnate, for they took up stones to cast at Him” (John 8:59). This was not the first time, nor the last, that the Pharisees would try and kill Jesus. Several times they tried to kill Jesus. When Jesus asked, “For what good deed are you going to stone Me?” (John 10:32). They replied,

John 10:33 (ESV) … “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. I have before proved it. But think, how hard it would be, knowing Who you are, to be stoned to death for declaring the truth. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. Oh, how He was humiliated in this life! When Jesus healed people, the Pharisees said:

Matthew 9:34 & 12:24 … He casts out demons by the prince of demons …

When you do good, but it is slandered as bad, isn’t this a great hurt? Yes, Jesus suffered this. At any time He could have walked away, but He did not. The Prophet Isaiah said that when the Messiah came, His trademark would be suffering:

Isaiah 53:2-3 (ESV) … He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Oh, how Jesus suffered. With a wave of His hand
He could make it all go away.
His suffering shows us how evil sin is!

His suffering reveals to us the horror and ugliness of sin. It is sin that caused religion to slander Jesus. It is sin that hated Him Who did no evil. It is sin manifested outside the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus is taken. And yet it is the love of God that requires Jesus to walk that terrible green mile. The Bible says that – following a mock trial where false witnesses were hired to speak against Him – Jesus was turned over to the soldiers.

Luke 22:63-64 (NKJV) … the men who held Jesus mocked Him and beat Him. 64 And having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face and asked Him, saying, “Prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?”

Though Pilate found no fault in this Man” (Luke 23:4), the crowd – drunk with sin – demanded His death. Release the murderer Barabbas, and crucify Jesus!” (Matthew 27:21). The soldiers took Jesus …

Matthew 27:28-31 (NKJV) they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. 29 When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.

Then Jesus was crucified between two thieves. The Lord of Glory is nailed, naked, to a Cross, shamed and denied. Oh, how Jesus suffered! But the greatest suffering occurred when our sins were put on Jesus Christ and judged.

Did Christ Suffer For US Just To Take Us To Heaven?

The Bible says in Matthew 27:45-46 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

In English, a Rhetorical Question is one in which the questioner does not expect an answer. Jesus knew why He was forsaken. He was forsaken for our sins.

1 Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

Jesus bore our sins on His Body. The Scripture says:

2 Corinthians 5:21 For {God the Father} hath made {Jesus} to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

God put my sins, your sins, on Christ.
Jesus suffered DEMOTION for us.
Jesus suffered DISGRACE for us.
And finally,

Jesus suffered DEATH for us

Paying the penalty for our sins, Jesus died on that Cross of Calvary. Jesus could heal the lepers, the cripples, the demon possessed, the blind, the deaf, the dumb. Jesus could cure the physical hurts that we as fallen creatures often find in these pitiful human frames. Yet

of all that Jesus healed, He could not fix the penalty of sin
for us without willingly giving up His life.

No one took Jesus’ life. Jesus willingly laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:15-17). Peter said, “Jesus, I will lay down my life for Your sake” (John 13:37). But Peter did not. He, like us, is broken. But Jesus said, I lay down My life. NO MAN TAKETH IT FROM ME, BUT I LAY IT DOWN OF MYSELF” (John 10:18). Jesus laid His life down. Why? The Scripture says:

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

Jesus suffered for our sins, not just to take us to Heaven, but to bring us to God. How does Jesus bring us to God? He paid for our sins. He sends the Holy Spirit to call us. He is calling you to believe and receive Him, if you have not done so already. The Bible says Christ suffered FOR US. Who is the US? It is those who have RECEIVED HIM as Lord and Savior. The Bible says:

John 3:15-16 That WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM should not perish, but have ETERNAL LIFE … 16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM should not perish, but have EVERLASTING LIFE.

Christ suffered for us to HEAL US OF OUR SINS. It is sin that is destroying America today. Sin is a fire that burns down all that is good. Sin brings disease, and death.

Jesus Christ came to KILL OUR SIN DEBT, to make us right with God, to bring us into the FAMILY OF GOD, to take us from darkness and into the wonderful light of God!

Jesus said, John 12:46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.

Jesus did not suffer for us to give us an eventual home in Heaven with God. Jesus suffered and died to make payment for our sins so that He might bring us into the Family of God. The Bible says:

Acts 10:43 … whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins …

Romans 9:33; 10:11 … whosoever believeth on Him shall NOT be ashamed …

Those who believe in Jesus are saved from sin and darkness. God did not save us just to take us to Heaven, but to bring Heaven to us.

We who are saved are CALLED to be sons of God,
imitating THE Son of God.

1 Peter 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

Jesus’ death paid for our sins so that we could be made right with God. But listen:

Preach This!

Couldn’t Jesus have just became human, and go to Calvary to pay for our sins?
Why did He have to be born of Mary?
Why did He have to grow up in Nazareth?
Why did
Jesus have to suffer so much prior to and at the Cross?
Why was Jesus DEMOTED, DISGRACED, and brought to DEATH?

Word Study: Because Jesus is our Example. As Children of God, Jesus established a pattern we are to copy. The word translated EXAMPLE” is the Greek word hupogrammos {hoop-og-ram-mos’}, a very interesting word. The best way I know how to explain this word is to go back to grade school. I remember when I was very young and in school, we had these pads of paper with lines and dots on them. The lines and dots were there so that us children could properly form our letters. The teacher would tell us to form the letter “A”, then we would watch her as she formed the letter. We would try to copy her letter just as she formed it. In the very front of our writing pads we had a set of examples showing us how the letters should be properly formed. These examples were writing copies, the Greek hupogrammos {hoop-og-ram-mos’}. Jesus Christ is the hupogrammos, the writing copy. As our Writing Copy we are commanded to follow his steps. This is the Greek epakoloutheo {pronounced ep-ak-ol-oo-theh’-o} + ichnos {pronounced ikh’-nos} = which means to follow closely in the tracks or impressions of . What is intended for us is that we stay close to Jesus, following so close to Him that our tracks perfectly fit in His. Jesus gave us a pattern to follow.

Saved by Grace, we are to live in Grace. God has given us the Example as to how He wants us to live.

1 Peter 2:23Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously:

When Jesus was attacked, He did not attack back.
He left vengeance in the hands of the Father.

Illustrate: I have recently watched with horror as, in our political system and on social media, people are attacking one another. One side pours acid on the other, and then the other side pours lighter fluid. What is this doing for our country? It is burning it down. The Bible says:

Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Word Study: The lost world uses terrible tactics to attack each other. Beloved, the sons of God are to be like THE Son of God. What did Jesus do? When He was reviled, reviled not again. Jesus glorified God in His life, though He was hated without a cause. Jesus never fought fire with fire. The word reviledis the Greek λοιδορέω loidoréō, {pronounced loy-dor-eh’-o}, which means “to heap abuse upon someone, to reproach and tear down another”. Jesus refused to play Satan’s game. When He suffered, He threatened not”. Jesus trusted in the Father. He did not seek to avenge Himself though He could, with but a whisper, have destroyed all of creation. Jesus will not – would not – do that. He came to save, not to destroy.

Do you know my Jesus?

If you have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you are called to follow in His steps. You are not to be a part of the evil that darkens our world today. You are called to “walk in the light, as Jesus is in the light” (1 John 1:7). We are children of Light, of Love, of God. We obey our Jesus. We end with this:

1 Peter 2:25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

Jesus is our Shepherd and our Bishop. We follow Him if we are saved. And Beloved, if you are not saved …. would you hear His call? Would you believe He died for your sins, to bring you to God? If you do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior, today is a GREAT DAY to be saved. May God lead you to the Great Shepherd Who laid His life down – and continues to lay His life down – for His sheep. Amen and amen!

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Repent and Rise To Serve The Lord

Please turn with me in your Bibles to Nehemiah chapter 10.

Nehemiah Chapter 10 is one of those chapters of Scripture you would most likely skip when you come across it. The first part of the chapter looks like a Phone Book – with very hard names to pronounce. For instance:

Nehemiah 10:1-4 Now those that sealed were, Nehemiah, the Tirshatha, the son of Hachaliah, and Zidkijah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3 Pashur, Amariah, Malchijah, 4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch …

I think I’ll stop there. Most people would stop here, and then skim over to the next chapter to continue reading. But if you do so, you will miss some great truths that apply to our lives, and to our country today. Israel has begun to return to the Promised Land, has rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem, and has rebuilt the Temple. The reason Israel has been conquered and exiled from their land for 70 years is because that nation ceased to follow the Great Shepherd of the Sheep.

Godly Leadership Is Calling Israel To Repentance

When we left chapter 9 we read that:

Nehemiah 9:37-38 … because of our sins: {our enemies} have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress. 38 And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.

The reason Israel collapsed is because Israel walked away from God. It is – as the leaders of Israel said – because of our sins. When Jesus Christ – Incarnate God – came to this earth to preach, the very first message He ever preached was:

Matthew 4:17 Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

Repent. Turn from your godless ways, and begin to follow God. Not too long ago I preached from 1 Peter 1:13, where believers are told to Gird up the loins of your mind. Israel allowed godlessness to dominate their minds, and therefore dominate their actions. Now God is calling His people to repent”. Repentance means to RENOUNCE what God declares is evil, to RENEW our minds by reading and feeding on His Word, and to RESIST the evil (James 4:7). Out of repentance the people now approach God and do two things. They

  • make a sure covenant. These are the Hebrew words אֲמָנָה ʼămânâh, {pronounced am-aw-naw’} כָּרַת kârath, {pronounced kaw-rath’} which mean cut a covenant. In the ancient world covenants were NOT MADE, but were CUT. Animals without spot or blemish were sacrificed to God. Why? When God made a Covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:9-10) He had Abraham “cut” the sacrificed animals into pieces (except for the birds), and then God walked between the cut pieces. To “cut a covenant” is a sacred thing. Nehemiah and the leaders of the nation were committing themselves and those who would follow to honor and obedience to God.
  • and write it. 84 people sign this document. God didn’t need to see the written document. God sees what we do, and remembers what we say and do. This written “contract” or perhaps a better word would be “Constitution”, give a physical record for the people to keep and refer to in future generations. It has been fashionable of late to poo poo the idea that America was founded on Christian principles. Gregory Elder, a professor of history and humanities at Moreno Valley College writes:

    “Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration, the great majority, perhaps all, identified themselves as Christians, and all but one were Protestants. Four were either present or former ministers, and a number of the signers were the sons of clergy. At least half of them had studied “divinity” at their various universities. The denominations breakdown runs as follows: 32 of the signers, well over half, were Episcopalians, or Anglicans, the old state Church of England. There were 13 Congregationalists, 12 were Presbyterians. There were two Quakers, two Unitarians, and one Roman Catholic.”

The breakdown of the Leaders who signed the Covenant were:

Nehemiah 10:1-8 Nehemiah the Governor and the Priests signed the Covenant
Nehemiah 10:9-13 The Levites signed the Covenant
Nehemiah 10:14-27 The Civic Leaders signed the Covenant

The repentance of the nation meant nothing unless
the leadership of that nation repented.

The Bible repeatedly shows us that – when the leadership is corrupt – the nation will follow that corruption. The Bible says, Where there is no guidance, a people falls. But in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). Throughout the Old Testament we see instances where the leadership moved toward idolatry – and it wasn’t long before the people followed suit. The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders:

1 Timothy 2:1-4 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

Where the head goes, the body goes. When the leadership of a nation, a state, a community, a church, a company, or a family drift away from God, it isn’t long before the crowd follows. Before God established a human king in Israel, we read:

Judges 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Everyone did what was right in his own eyes”. When there is no leadership, people will do what is right in their own eyes. And guess what? Without Godly leadership, the nation will falter and fall. This is what happened to Israel. This is what led to Israel’s conquering, exile, the destruction of the Temple, and the destruction of the Holy City Jerusalem. Where people are not directed by Godly leadership, the nation falters. We must pray for our leaders, pray for our Presidents, Governors, and Pastors. We need to pray for our political parties and their leadership. This is imperative for the stability of the nation.

Notice that Nehemiah and the priests were the first to sign the Covenant with God. Nehemiah was the acting ruler of Jerusalem, the Governor appointed by King Xerxes. He took the lead – and God’s priests followed. Next the Levites, those who assisted in the operation of the Temple, signed the Covenant. Finally the Civic Leaders – the Commissioners, the Aldermen, the Mayors, the various political entities that led the people signed the Covenant.

This was a written Covenant with God Himself!

Once the various leaders of Israel “cut a covenant” with God, the remainder of the people made an affirmation to follow God. We read:

The People Choose To Follow Their Leaders

Nehemiah 10:28-29 And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and all they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one having knowledge, and having understanding; 29 They cleave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes

An interesting phrase says the people entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law. The people were recognizing that – when they followed God – they would be blessed. BUT if they rejected following God, they would be cursed. God expects His people to follow Him. Throughout the New Testament we find that blessing only comes by following the Spirit of God. Before we were saved, we walked following the spirit of this world:

Ephesians 2:1-3 And you hath {God made alive}, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the {ways} of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our {way of life} in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

This is where we WERE, before we met the Lord Jesus and were born again of the Spirit. Once saved, we are called – not to walk in darkness – but to walk in the light of God with Jesus. Hear the Scripture:

Galatians 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Galatians 5:16 Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

When you walk through this life arm in arm with God our Savior, you will have a blessed life. This does not mean you won’t be tried. Jesus was tried. But it does mean that you will victoriously overcome every trial that comes your way, for God is greater than anything that might come against us. The Scripture says:

Proverbs 14:34 (ESV) Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

Israel now gets very specific on how they will follow God. We read:

Nehemiah 10:30 And that we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, not take their daughters for our sons:

  1. Israel would not allow an unequal yoke within the families of the nation. This does not refer to racial exclusion, but to religious exclusion. When God called His people from Egypt, He warned them:

Exodus 34:12-16 (ESV) Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods.

One of the major reasons Israel kept wandering away from God is because they made intimate covenants – in marriage and in business – with unbelievers who worshiped false gods and goddesses. Nehemiah discovered this when he came back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. Nehemiah was quite vocal – and physical! We read:

Nehemiah 13:23-28 (ESV) In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people. 25 And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. 26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin. 27 Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?” 28 And one of the sons of Jehoiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was the son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite. Therefore I chased him from me.

When you enter into an intimate relationship with an unbeliever, it will not be long before that unbeliever drags you down to his or her level. We are told in the New Testament:

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Children of God should be very careful as to whom the “hook up” with. This also applies to secular activities, like television, movies, and plays. The devil uses the visual media to effect our thought patterns, leading us away from what God has said is “righteous” and into something dark.

Marriage is a contract with God as the Witness. Your wife “is your companion, and your wife by covenant” (Malachi 2:14)

When I do a wedding, before I go through the ceremony I ask both parties to come and speak with me in “premarital counseling”. If one of the parties is an apparent believer, but the other an apparent unbeliever, I refuse to do the ceremony, and encourage them to go to the courthouse and have a judge do it. Believer and unbeliever should never be yoked together in marriage, nor in business. Israel suffered from evil kings because many of these men married evil and godless women. And yes, this goes both ways! How many times have I heard good Christian women tell me they wanted to marry a godless man because they believed “I can change him”. Beloved, only God can change a person. Be not unequally yoked!

Nehemiah 10:31 And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the sabbath, or on the holy day: and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt.

Under the Old Testament law, Israel was not to buy or sell anything on the Sabbath. God wanted Israel to have one day a week focus on worshiping God and not money.

  1. Israel would honor God first in their business practices. God calls on His people to love Him first. When Jesus was asked:

Matthew 22:36-37 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

God was to be first. God is always to be first. God wants our ALL. Prior to the coming of Christ, Israel had a seventh day Sabbath – a day of rest – where they celebrated and cherished God. The Jewish Synagogues met on the Sabbath (see Mark 6:2; Luke 4:31; Luke 13:10–16; Acts 13:14, 27, 42–44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4). When Jesus Christ came of God, He was crucified and rose again on the first day of the week or Sunday. Christian studied the scriptures daily (Acts 17:11), but

In honor of Jesus (Who rose from the grave on the first day of the week) we Christians meet on Sunday to worship the Lord.
(see Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Matthew 28:1)

God demanded that Israel further celebrate a seventh year Sabbath, as well as special Sabbaths that occurred prior to certain Feasts or Festivals. God incorporated these days into the life of Israel so that they would take a break from business, rest, and meditate on Him. Because Israel refused to keep the Sabbatical Year for 490 years, God had them exiled from the land for 70 years. Nehemiah also adds the words and the exaction of every debt..

Though we are New Testament believers, it is still important for us to take one day in seven to rest and rely on the Lord. The Manufacturer of the human body has highly recommended we not overwork ourselves – but to take one day in seven to rest and rely on Him.

Nehemiah 10:32-33 Also we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God; 33 For the shewbread, and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.

  1. Israel would also support the Temple by giving a special offering once a year. God specified that this third of a shekel would be for certain priestly services and supplies. Then the people cast lots:

Nehemiah 10:34 And we cast the lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, after the houses of our fathers, at times appointed year by year, to burn upon the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the law:

to see who would be responsible for bringing wood into the Temple for burn offerings as the Law required. The Temple was not to be neglected by the people. Also, the people agreed to bring in the first fruits of the harvest unto God.

Nehemiah 10:35-37 And to bring the first fruits of our ground, and the first fruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the Lord: 36 Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God: 37 And that we should bring the first fruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.

The Israelis showed their love for God by not giving Him the leftover, but giving Him the first fruits or the first harvest. This was not a new requirement. God told His people:

Proverbs 3:9-10 Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: 10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.

Our Lord Jesus tells us today to:

Matthew 6:31-34 (ESV) Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

When we make God first in our lives, He will make us blessed in our lives. My Commentary notes:

Simply said, the Bible says we need to be givers. Not so much for the sake of those we give to, but because giving sets our heart right about material things. God Himself is the greatest giver. … The New Testament speaks with great clarity on the principle of giving; that giving should be regular, planned, proportional, and private (1 Corinthians 16:1-4); that it must be generous, freely and cheerfully given (2 Corinthians 9).”

I have said before that you cannot out give God. Put God first in your life and in your hearts, and see if this isn’t true.

Nehemiah 10:38-39 And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house. 39 For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the corn, of the new wine, and the oil, unto the chambers, where are the vessels of the sanctuary, and the priests that minister, and the porters, and the singers: and we will not forsake the house of our God.

We are told that the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes. We learn from Deuteronomy 14:22-29 that:

  • People took a tithe to the sanctuary for 2 years
  • The third year the tithe was paid locally to help the poor Israeli
  • Every seven years the field were unworked, so no tithe was gathered.

Those who have been saved by the Grace of God should also be gracious and loving to others. 1st John 3:14 states:

We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

The Scripture tells us:

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Like recovering Israel, we are to live our lives so as to please our God. God calls His people to have a different type of love from what the secular world has. We have a different Source (our Savior, not our selves), a different sustaining power (God the Holy Spirit) and a different goal (not self satisfaction, but God’s satisfaction). May God bless us as we put Him first in our daily lives. Amen and Amen.

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The Beloved Walk With God

Photo by egil sjøholt: https://www.pexels.com/photo/silhouette-photography-of-person-under-starry-sky-1906658/

Please turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Peter 2:11. We read:

1 Peter 2:11-12 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

God Calls His Children “Dearly Beloved”

Word Study: God uses three words to describe the believer in Christ and, by extension, the Church. The first word is dearly beloved or the Greek ἀγαπητός agapētos, which means “Those who are cherished, those worthy of love”. This is not the only place where dearly beloved is used. We see it used twice in:

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved (agapētos) and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved (agapētos).

And in 2 Corinthians 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved (agapētos), let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Why would God call us who are Christians “dearly beloved (agapētos)”? It all stems back to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the second Member of the Godhead, the Incarnate Son of God. Jesus Himself is God in the flesh, “God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16). While Jesus was on this earth the Father often spoke from Heaven, saying “This is my beloved (agapētos) Son in whom I am well pleased” (see Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).Jesus Christ is thedearly beloved (agapētos) Son of God. When we repent of our sins and “call upon the name of the Lord” for salvation, God applies the sacrifice, death, and resurrection of Christ to our own lives. Righteousness is “imputed” or placed on our lives by our act of faith. The Scripture declares,

Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Jesus is, according to the Father, (Matthew 12:18) “My Beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon Him, and He shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.”Because we have received Jesus as Lord and Savior, as He is Beloved of God, we are Beloved of God. At the Mount of Transfiguration God the Father told those there:

Luke 9:35 … This is my beloved (agapētos) Son: hear Him.

We are Beloved for Jesus’ sake, with a love that will never diminish nor die. We are Beloved because we are “in Christ” by faith. We are told in Ephesians 1:6, “{God} hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” As my commentary noted:

All those adopted into God’s family through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ are beloved by the Father (John 1:12; Romans 8:15). It is an amazing, lavish love: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). Because God has shed His love on us, we are free to apply the words of Song of Solomon 6:3 to our relationship with Christ: “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.”

Oh, how God loves us! See His love on that Cross! The nails that tore through His skin, pressing through nerve and bone. The crown of thorns upon His head. Hear Him on that Cross as He hung bleeding, suffering. “No one takes My life – I lay it down for you. Not My will, but My Father’s will be done”. Jesus bled and died on that lonely tree for you and I, to bring us peace with God. He died for our sins, to free us from sin’s mastery. He rose again to lead us into life everlasting. We are Beloved because we are in Christ, and Christ is in us.

Beloved Of God, We Are Not Beloved Of The World

Word Study: We are not justBeloved, but we areStrangers (πάροικος paroikos, foreigners, without citizenship) on this earth.Though we may have temporary homes on this earth, and temporarily be citizens of earthly kingdoms (like the United States), our actual citizenship is in Heaven. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God. Jesus preached the Kingdom of God. He said:

Mark 1:15 The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

The Kingdom of God is AT HAND. Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, came to this earth proclaiming God’s Kingdom. We who are saved are citizens of God’s Kingdom. Our actual inheritance is not on this earth, but with our God.

2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

We who are Christians have a home waiting for us in Heaven. God left us on this earth after we were “born again of the Spirit of God” (John 3:3-6) so that we could represent Him and lead others into His kingdom. Though we show Biblical Love toward those around us, we never become “friends” of darkness. The Bible tells us that:

James 4:4 … know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

We are called of God to love all, to do good toward even our enemies (Galatians 6:10; Hebrews 13:16). Yet we are never to compromise with the darkness of sin. Sin is destructive. Sin is against God. Sin leads to death. The Bible tells us:

Ephesians 5:8, 11 ye were {once] darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: … 11 … have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Word Study: We are strangers, the Greek πάροικος pároikos, {pronounced par’-oy-kos}, meaning foreigners, people from another country. The Bible also calls us pilgrimsto remind us that our life is TRANSITIONAL on this earth. The word pilgrims is is the Greek παρεπίδημος parepídēmos, {pronounced par-ep-id’-ay-mos}, which means someone from another land passing through. The Christian is to be distinctly different in both BEHAVIOR as well as CITIZENSHIP. We are not like the lost world.

The Beloved Reject Fleshly Lusts That Destroy The Soul

Illustrate: I can never remember what poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac look like, though I remember that old poem,

Leaves of three, let them be ..

Poison Ivy has three broad, tear shaped leaves growing from a vine. Poison Oak, however, has three or more oak shaped leaves growing from a vine or shrub. And Poison Sumac has seven to thirteen leaves per stem. So the little rhyme doesn’t always hold true. But what the Bible says next always holds true. We read:

1 Peter 2:11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul

The Bible says in 1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. Fleshly lusts war against the soul. They take us captive, and draw us away from God. Fleshly lusts destroy the body. We are told in:

Romans 8:13 (NKJV) … if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live

When God tells us not to be involved in something, it is not because He wants to rob us of joy. When God says “don’t do it”, it is because He loves us with an infinite love, and does not want us to hurt ourselves. The darkened world follows after fleshly lusts. We are not of this world, but are of Christ. The Scripture says:

Romans 13:11-14 (ESV) the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

What are “fleshly lusts”? The Apostle called these things “the works of the flesh”, and gave us a clear description of these things in:

Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV) Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 18 (ESV) Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. … 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

Fleshly lusts “WAR” against the soul. This is the Greek strateuo which means “act as a soldier, to attack or sneak up on so as to destroy another”.

One way that “fleshly lusts” attack the soul is by direct conflict. Perhaps you have noticed how network television has been pushing heterosexual sin (adultery, fornication) and homosexual sin for years. It is because Satan knows that these fleshly lusts war against the soul.

They scar the psyche of the one exposed to them.
Children are presenting with gender dysphoria.
People are confused as to their Divine Design.
A disregard for the value of life is prevalent in America.


Is it any wonder that we have so many heinous school shootings and killing of innocents in our country? When you watch blood and gore on television and in the movies, and see women undergo abortions while celebrating that on social media, life is marred and lessened. Beloved, the problem is not the guns. Cain killed his brother Abel, and to this day we don’t know how he did it! The problem is not a thing or a tool. The problem is that several generations of people – as children and now adults – have been exposed to fleshly lusts. Televisions reek with blood letting. The movies produce things like the Final Destination franchise where people are brutally and horrendously slaughtered. Children who are now adults have played games like Call of Duty™ , Soldier of Fortune™ , Mortal Kombat™ , Manhunt 2™ , Splatterhouse™ , Dead Space™ , God of War™ , Bulletstorm™ , Grand Theft Auto™ …. I could go on and on. Children have grown up watching women raped on Game of Thrones© . When I was a child we had to steal my friend Benny’s dad’s Playboy©. Today young people go online and type what they’re looking for in a search engine. You can see anything you want – no one need tell you about the birds and the bees. And if all else fails, go to a local Library where a table will be set up to “celebrate diversity”.

As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we must monitor ourselves and abstain from fleshly lusts. We put away sin, put away those things which are dishonoring to our God.

Many have wondered why there is such widespread debauchery throughout American Society today as opposed to yesteryear. It is because Satan has masterfully introduced concepts that are destructive to the human soul. Like poison ivy, we have played amongst its leaves, and its infection has spread like wildfire. As believers we need to be careful to limit ourselves to that which God says is evil. We should not only not do it – we should not watch it done.

The Beloved Must Watch Out For Sneak Attacks

But there is another way that fleshly lusts war against the soul. Just as the soldier uses direct, frontal attack, the warrior also uses subterfuge and sneakiness. Some men are killed on the battlefield by the machine gunner, but others are killed by snipers hidden in the bushes. We read a little further …

1 Peter 2:11-12 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles …

Here is where the enemy sneaks up. Though we as Christians are to avoid fleshly lusts, we must ALSO avoid Phariseeism and self righteousness.

Word Study: We are told to have our conversation honest among the Gentiles. The word translated CONVERSATIONis the Greek ἀναστροφή anastrophḗ, (pronounced an-as-trof-ay’) which literally means “your manner of life. your walk, behavior, or conduct.” Your manner of living is to be “HONEST” (καλός kalós, {pronounced kal-os’}) which means “genuine, good, approved, comforting and confirming”. What does this mean? It means simply what it says. BE HONEST in your life.

The Pharisees were Jesus’ greatest attackers. They constantly hounded our Lord. Why? Because they thought that they themselves were sinless, and that Jesus – if He were the Messiah – wouldn’t be hanging out with sinners! The Bible says:

Mark 2:17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Jesus Christ did not come to save us because we have it all together. He came to save us because NONE of us have it all together. We do not pursue things that our God tells us not to pursue. But on the other hand, we do not act all “holier than thou”, as if we ourselves are perfect. I read this the other day, and really liked it:

Some people are REAL. Some people are GOOD. Some people are FAKE. And some people are REAL GOOD at being FAKE!”

As followers of Christ Jesus, we sometimes (and may I say, oftentimes) get off course. Let us not be like the Pharisees. How did the Pharisees act?

  • They gave people laws to follow that they themselves would not do. (Matthew 23:4)
  • When they obeyed a law, they did it so they could brag about it. (Matthew 23:5-7)
  • They made salvation inhumanely impossible. (Matthew 23:13)
  • They created a “holier than thou” club few could join (Matthew 23:14)
  • They twisted the law when it suited them. (Matthew 23:23-24)
  • They looked good outwardly, but inwardly had no relationship with God (Matthew 23:25-26)

What is interesting is that Peter himself had often failed God – even after the resurrection of Christ. The Apostle Paul at one time had to correct Peter because when the Jewish Christians were around, he would not associate with the Gentile Christians (see Galatians 2:9-14). Peter dipped into Phariseeism.

As believers in Christ, our way of life is to be honest among the Gentiles. We are not to put on airs, or pretend that we are better than the lost. We are followers of Christ. We are not perfect. We fail God at times. But we live our lives honestly and sincerely, relying upon Jesus Christ and God the Holy Spirit for our salvation. The Bible tells us that salvation is a free gift from God:

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by Grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any one should boast.

But once we are saved, we become the workmanship of God.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

A Christ is saved by faith in Christ. Because we have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, God has imputed His righteousness to our lives. What does the Scripture say?

Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

Because Jesus bore your sins on the Cross of Calvary, God has sent His Holy Spirit to indwell you (John 14:17; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Titus 3:5; 2 Peter 1:4). You become “born again” (John 3:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:23), adopted into the Family of God (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5). You are moved from the kingdom of darkness “into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). You are a “new creature in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). But Beloved,

you are NOT PERFECT.

The Beloved Apostle John wrote:

1 John 1:5-10 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

I know of no better way to say this. As Christians, we are saved FROM SIN. We do not wallow in sin. We hate sin. We know that God does not dwell in sin, so we PURSUE THE LIGHT, striving to do what our Father through the Spirit tells us to do. We know and believe that the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. And yet, there are times we sin. There are times we fall short. There are times that we – like Peter who was chastised of Paul – get off course. When we do, we remember that it is the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. What do we do? We confess our sins, we do not hide our sins. We believe that upon confession of our sins to God he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

When we sin, we confess our sins. Then we get back to the light, and start doing good for our God.

The Beloved Do Good, Imitating The Beloved Son

1 Peter 2:11-12 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

The lost world will speak against you as evildoers. The world is going to call us names. It’s going to attack us for believing in God’s Bible. And yet, we are told to do good works. We see this throughout the Scripture. God tells us in …

Titus 3:1-7 … to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

We are not to be part of the noise and the anarchy, but we are to – as much as is possible – do good to others. There is a lot of evil in the world. The Scripture says:

Romans 12:21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Jesus told us very plainly:

Matthew 5:43-48 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. …

Those who are saved by faith in Christ are not only to be good citizens of the Kingdom of God, but good citizens of the kingdoms that we are passing through as strangers and foreigners.

Our Lord Jesus gave us an example as to how we should live in this present world. As Jesus did, let us do. Let us close with these words:

1 Peter 2:21-24 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile {deceit} found in his mouth: 23 Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously: 24 Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by Whose stripes ye were healed.

Jesus surrendered Himself to the Father. We are to do the same. As Jesus did, so must we so. For His glory, and the glory of God forever. Let us approach the Lord’s Table with clear hearts, confessing our sins, and committing ourselves to live for the glory of Christ’s Kingdom. Amen and Amen!

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Repenting To And Celebrating Our God

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The last time we were in Nehemiah, the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem were repaired and the gates hung. Israel listened to the Word of God as it was read by Ezra the Priest. We stopped here, in Nehemiah 8, where we will continue:

Nehemiah 8:14-15 And they found written in the law which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month: 15 And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.

In Our Smallness We Celebrate The Greatness Of Our Lord!

The “Feast of Booths” (also known as the Festival of Tabernacles or Sukkot) was a time for Israel to be joyful, as God commanded

Be JOYFUL at your Feast” (Deuteronomy 16:14)

Booths always occurs four days after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Ezra was reading from

Leviticus 23:34, 39-43 The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the Lord. … 39 Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. 40 And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. 41 And ye shall keep it a feast unto the Lord seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: 43 That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

God blessed Israel richly in bringing them out of Egyptian slavery. God also blessed His people in bringing them out of Babylonian and Medo-Persian captivity. God had Israel dwell in “Booths” or “Tabernacles” made from the boughs of palm and willow trees. Every Israelite was to dwell in “Booths” for seven days. The Booths were temporary but a reminder how God had reached out and saved His people. It was a time to practice the Presence of God – to unplug from the Temple and Jerusalem itself, and to just rest in the arms of God.

A Tent Revival: As a Church we will be having a revival the last week of this month, a tent revival, with a homecoming that Sunday following it. I do not know how well attended it will be. I am praying that many souls will be saved, and people will unplug from the insanity that has recently become America.

I am praying that we as a Church will embrace this time,
and draw near to our God in worship.

I have talked, over the years, with older members who had “brush arbor meetings”. In those meetings they gathered brush and branches and made areas where believers could gather and worship.

I pray that this is what our tent revival will be like. We have been so richly blessed as a Church – not just through the pandemic – but even now. As I sat and talked with our Director of Missions just yesterday,

I had no idea so many local Churches have suffered instability
and decreases in membership.

Yet we chug along. Perhaps we ourselves will drop in membership as we go forward. I don’t know what tomorrow holds. But I know Who holds tomorrow!

We must celebrate our Lord!

Just as Booths focused on God and not the people, our Tent Revival will focus on Jesus Christ and not Riverview Baptist. It will be a time of celebration, a time of joy, a time to recognize all the good that God has done for us. Churches in our area have closed their doors, but Christ kept us open. Why? Because we celebrate Him. We love His Word, and want to hear from it. There has been some concern that it might rain during the revival., If it does, that is God’s will. We will celebrate Him. The ground where the tent is will be – as ground is – somewhat uneven. If it is, that is God’s will. He gave us the land not just to mow, but to worship Him on. I don’t know about you, but I want to worship my Lord! Notice how the Israelis made their “Booths”:

Nehemiah 8:16-17 So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim. 17 And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.

Some made booths on their housetops. Others made booths in their “courts” or back yards. Some went to the Temple, and made booths in the courts around the Temple. Some made booths in the streets that were closed off, like the Water Gate and Ephraim. If you’ll notice, NO ONE made booths in the Temple itself. The point of making temporary booths is to remind the people that God is with us no matter where we are. In the popular Psalm, David wrote:

Psalm 23:1-4 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

God is with His people. When we go through the darkest valley, God is with us. He promises:

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV) Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

When Israel dwelt in booths, they had NO land, promised or otherwise. Israel had NO standing army. Israel was a nation of released slaves, led by Moses. Israel had NO Temple nor Church building. They worshiped God in a tent called the “Tabernacle” that they had to set up each time they stopped traveling. Israel had NO written Scripture to guide them, as God wrote the beginning of the Scripture through Moses their leader. Israel had NO blessedness in the Incarnate Jesus Christ, but had to sacrifice animals to cover their sins. Israel had NO doctors, NO fast food restaurants, NO radio or television, NO internet, and NO refrigeration or way to store food. And yet, God took care of them.

Israel had one thing in their favor. They were small. As long as they stayed small, trusting in and looking up to God, they would be blessed. It was only when Israel got BIG and thought they were GREATER THAN GOD did they actually become small. God told Israel:

Isaiah 43:1-2 (ESV) But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you.

God says in His Word that when we:

James 4:10 (ESV) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

1 Peter 5:6 (ESV) Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,

When God’s people make themselves small and rest in the arms of Jesus, there is very great gladness.

Now we come to Nehemiah Chapter 9. This is two days after the Feast of Booths/ Tabernacles/ Sukkot (Nehemiah 8:13-18). The people confessed their sins and the sins of their fathers, and magnified God and His faithfulness.

God Is Worshiped When We Confess Our Sins
And Magnify His Faithfulness

Nehemiah 9:2-3 And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. 3 And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the Lord their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshiped the Lord their God.

Sin hinders our walk with God. God said in:

Isaiah 59:2 (ESV) but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

Sin is an offense to God, and that which should be unnatural to those whom He has saved. Sin keeps us from receiving God’s best for our lives. Solomon said, “The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29). God spoke to Israel through the Prophet Jeremiah, saying:

Jeremiah 5:22-25 (ESV) Do you not fear me? declares the Lord. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it. 23 But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away. 24 They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the Lord our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.’ 25 Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you.

Sin robs us of what good our Lord would give to us. Yet the Bible promises that If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). Confession is when we agree with God that HE is right, and WE are not. Following confession of sin the Levites told the people:

Nehemiah 9:5 Then the Levites, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, Stand up and bless the Lord your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.

As the priests led Israel in blessing God, they recounted all the ways that God had been faithful to Israel – though Israel had been at times unfaithful to God. So often when we do the wrong thing, and suffer because of it, we want to blame God for what occurs. This is unfair to God, and foolish of us. God is good. The Scripture says:

1 John 1:5 … God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

When we “walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5), God blesses us. The priests now relate the goodness of God. Let’s read of His goodness:

Nehemiah 9:6, 7-15 Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.

7 Thou art the Lord the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham; 8 And foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites, to give it, I say, to his seed, and hast performed thy words; for thou art righteous: 9 And didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red sea; 10 And shewedst signs and wonders upon Pharaoh, and on all his servants, and on all the people of his land: for thou knewest that they dealt proudly against them. So didst thou get thee a name, as it is this day. 11 And thou didst divide the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land; and their persecutors thou threwest into the deeps, as a stone into the mighty waters. 12 Moreover thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar; and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go. 13 Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments: 14 And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant: 15 And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them.

In this short section we see the faithfulness of God to Israel, from the call of Abram to their journey to Mount Sinai, around 645 years. God made a promise to Abram – who would become Abraham – and swore upon Himself that He would keep it (see Hebrews 6:13). God keeps His Word regardless as to the amount of time that passes. We who are saved have a KNOW SO salvation:

1 John 5:11-15 (ESV) And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

When God promises, you can take that to the bank!

God Stays With His People, Even When We Mess Up!

Nehemiah 9:16-24 But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments, 17 And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not. 18 Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations; 19 Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go. 20 Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst. 21 Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, so that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not. 22 Moreover thou gavest them kingdoms and nations, and didst divide them into corners: so they possessed the land of Sihon, and the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan. 23 Their children also multipliedst thou as the stars of heaven, and broughtest them into the land, concerning which thou hadst promised to their fathers, that they should go in to possess it. 24 So the children went in and possessed the land, and thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hands, with their kings, and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they would.

Though Israel continued to fail God, our Lord was faithful to His people. The Israelis entered the Promised Land to conquer it around 1400 BC. It is now around 444 BC, some 956 years after the second generation of Israel entered the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. Though much time has passed, God has continued to look after Israel. God never breaks His promises, though we often fail. The Levites lead the people of Israel in not blaming God, but THEMSELVES for the mess they are in. We will finish reading here:

Nehemiah 9:32-37 Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem little before thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day. 33 Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly: 34 Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them. 35 For they have not served thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness that thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which thou gavest before them, neither turned they from their wicked works. 36 Behold, we are servants this day, and for the land that thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it: 37 And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress.

God has always been, and always will be good! Let us celebrate our God’s faithfulness to those who have trusted in Him! Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

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A Couple Of “F” Words You Need To Know

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Please turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Peter 2:5-10. We studied verse 5 this morning, but our text tonight demands we read it again.

1 Peter 2:5-10 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

The Devil Loves To Twist God’s Word

The devil loves to twist words. He started out in the Garden of Eden and, twisting God’s Word, questioned God’s Word. “Has God really said you shall not eat of every fruit of the Garden?” (Genesis 3:1). When Eve replied, Satan said “You will not surely die! God knows the day you eat of this fruit, you will be like Him, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5).

Though Satan did not say the word, he implied his favorite four letter word, tempting Adam to forsake the Kingdom of God. Lucifer loves this four letter word. He uses it frequently when tempting us to sin. The four letter word I’m referring to begins with the letter “F”, and in a short while I’m going to have to say this word – forgive me!

Illustrate: I saw the word used on a commercial just last night. A company called Experian® said they were giving away something, and they used that dreaded “F” word. Are you ready? They said that if you went to their website, they would give you a … here it comes … FREE credit report! That’s what you all thought I was going to say, wasn’t it? That’s the devil’s favorite word. F-R-E-E. Anytime I see the word F-R-E-E I ask myself to mind the fine print, or the other shoe dropping. What Experian® is actually doing is trying to get you to sign up for one of their credit cards. Having been hurt by the credit card business myself, I highly recommend that you DO NOT get a credit card for ANYTHING except an emergency. Credit cards will put you – if you’re not very careful – in a financial hole that will enslave you and your paycheck and your family for a long, long time.

That old serpent was telling Adam, “Go ahead, eat! It’s FREE. There’s no strings attached.” Yet God had told Adam the truth, and there were strings attached. With one bite, our forefather Adam sold all his children – that’s us – into the slavery of sin and death.

Praise God that Jesus came along! Praise God that the Father sent the Son to give Himself for our sins. Praise God that the Holy Spirit comes to the seeking sinner, and causes that person to be born again. Praise God for this!

Salvation is a FREE GIFT from God. I agree with this statement. It is supported by the Scripture. The words “FREE GIFT” are only found together in these texts:

Romans 5:14-18 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. 15 But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification. 17 For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

Salvation is a FREE GIFT from God. It is purchased by Jesus, delivered by the Holy Spirit, and planned by God the Father. However, we need to be careful that we are defining the word “FREE” as GOD DEFINES “FREE”, and NOT as SATAN DEFINES “FREE”.

When Satan says something is “FREE”, he means,
“absolutely without consequence”

Illustrate: Yet Satan’s “FREE” is often a lie. The other day, I was leaving a discount market and heard that there was a large box of FREE items at the front door. I, like everyone else, loves FREE stuff. So I went out front and, accompanied by a mother and her daughter, went through that box. I found what I expected – junk! But I picked up a few things. I picked up a set of coasters with my “preferred pronouns” on it. My “preferred pronouns” are “He/ Him”. Now, I didn’t need this set of coasters to tell me what my pronouns are. I know what I am. I am what I was born to be, a man. But there are many in our world today who are confused over who they are. We have men who identify as women, women who identify as man, and people of either physical gender that identify as bi-sexual or both. The devil has told them “It’s your choice. You are FREE to choose what you will be sexually. Your body is a canvas – you’re the artist – there is no god – just do it!” So people make decisions because it is “FREE” or “without consequence”.

The young person goes to a party, and someone offers them a “FREE” pill. They are told, “Just try it, it will make you feel so good!”. So they try the “FREE” thing, and then they are enslaved by what they try.

A person feels broken, or out of place as they are. They do not go to God through Jesus Christ to seek healing, but go to a college class, or talk to an elite. “Have you ever tried same sex love? Try it. It’s FREE.” So they try it. And after trying it, the excitement of doing something different gives them a euphoria, and they try it again. Satan gets national advertisements and support from large corporations to endorse this “FREE” love movement. In time the broken still feel broken, more confused than ever. It did not bring perfect happiness, but enslavement to their bodies, enslavement to an unScriptural movement.

The devil’s definition of “FREE” has crept into the Church, and into the Gospel message. For years many preachers have stood up and preached Romans 5:14-18 and said,

See, salvation is a FREE GIFT. We are told this THREE TIMES in this text. It’s a FREE GIFT, something you cannot earn nor deserve.”

Is this true? Yes. It is a “FREE GIFT”. But what is the GIFT that the Bible talks about in this particular text? Read with me:

Romans 5:17 if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ

In the context where we are exposed to the words “FREE GIFT” we see that this “Free Gift” is two things:

abundance of grace”
“the gift of righteousness”

This is NOT a “FREE GIFT” to go to Heaven, but a “FREE GIFT” of GRACE and RIGHTEOUSNESS. This text has NOTHING to do with Heaven, and everything to do with HOW YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE. You shall “reign in life by one, Jesus Christ”

Salvation is not a “FREE GIFT” without consequence, but it is a “FREE GIFT” with consequences. It is “FREE” in the sense that you can neither earn it nor deserve it. It is free in the sense of

Titus 3:3-7 For we ourselves also were {at one time} foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. 4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

The Christian is someone who was {once} foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. That’s how you WERE. You were unloving. You were hateful, and hate filled. But then you received the “FREE GIFT” of salvation. This gift was received Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us. Were there consequences? Absolutely! We read on, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior. You are WASHED. You are REGENERATED, that is, “born again”. You are changed from what you WERE, to what you are NOW, a Child of God. And your activities are changed. As Children of God we have an inheritance. We belong to God. We are not as we were, but are changing day by day.

Yes, Salvation Is “Free”, But There Are
Consequences
To Being Saved

Though salvation is a “FREE GIFT”, it is free in the sense that you cannot purchase it. But once saved, there are consequences of salvation. Saved, you become a priest unto God.

1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

Every Christian – male or female – is a part of a holy priesthood. When I looked up the word “Priest” in the dictionary, it says

an ordained minister of the Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican Church having the authority to perform certain rites and administer certain sacraments”.

That is man’s definition of “Priest”. But God’s definition is different. If you are saved by faith in Christ, you are a priest unto God. A priest is someone who represents God to man, and man to God. In the Old Testament the “Priests” were supposed to be ALL of the nation of Israel. In Exodus 14 God saved Israel from Egyptian bondage by carrying them through the Red Sea as if on dry land. Israel was saved, and Egypt destroyed.

Salvation Is A Free Gift WITH Consequences

God told Israel in Exodus 19:4-6, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.

God called Israel as a nation to be a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. They were saved with a consequence. Israel told God:

Exodus 19:8 … All that the Lord hath spoken we will do

And yet, Israel did not. While Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving the Law from God, Israel commissioned Aaron to make a golden calf (see Exodus 32:8-10). God told Moses, Let Me alone, and I will destroy Israel, and make of you, Moses, a mighty nation (Exodus 32:10). But Moses – acting like a Priest should act – interceded for Israel and God. Moses asked the Lord not to destroy Israel for the Lord’s sake, lest His glory be diminished (see Exodus 32:11-13). God answered Moses’ prayer, and did not destroy Israel. When Moses came down the mountain he cried out:

Exodus 32:26 … “Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.”

Who, then, is the Priest. It is the One Who is on the Lord’s side. The Priest is not the person with the funny collar, or the fancy title of “Doctor” or “Father”. The Priest is the one on the Lord’s side. We who are Christ’s children by faith are:

1 Peter 2:5 … an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

Word Study: The word rendered holyis the Greek ἅγιος hágios, {pronounced hag’-ee-os}, which means “to be consecrated, set apart”. If you are saved, you are saved because you called upon the Name of Jesus, and the Holy Ghost came upon you to make you born again. What did Jesus say?

John 3:3, 5 … Except a {person} be born again, {they} cannot see the kingdom of God. … 5 … Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

When you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, repenting of your sins and turning solely to Him, He sends the Holy Spirit to your life. You are born again, born into the Family of God. You are made priests unto God. Unlike the Levitical Priests of the Old Covenant (and of the Tribe of Levi), you offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

The Priests Always Offer Up Sacrifices To God

Under the Old Covenant the Levitical Priests offered up animal sacrifices to temporarily cover the sins of the people of Israel (Leviticus 17:11). In Leviticus chapters 1-7 there were five types of offerings:

  1. Sin offerings, where blood from the male animal covered unintentional sins against God
  2. Burnt offerings, where blood from the male animal was sprinkled on intentional sinners to cover their sins
  3. Peace offerings, where a male or female animal was offered in thanksgiving to God
  4. Trespass offerings, where a male ram was sacrificed for unintentional sins in fraudulent transactions. Money was also repaid to the victim.
  5. Grain offerings, which symbolized gratitude for God’s bounty and blessing

If animals were sacrificed, they were animals that had neither spot nor blemish, the finest of the flock or herd. Impoverished Israelis could offer turtledoves if that was all they could afford. The Priests under the Old Covenant were only males from the Tribe of Levi. The High Priests came from the lineage of Aaron, Moses’ brother. The Old Covenant sacrifices are a shadow of a better Covenant, one in which Jesus Christ is the Centerpiece. You are

1 Peter 2:5 … an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

First, our High Priest is not some earthly person, but it is Jesus Christ Himself. When Abraham returned from battle a mysterious man met him:

Genesis 14:18 … Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God

We are never told who this Melchizedek is in the Old Testament. Yet in the New Testament we are told that Jesus Christ is …

Hebrews 5:10 … Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

As our High Priest, Jesus did not offer turtledoves, rams, sheep, bulls, or grain to cover our sins. Jesus Christ offered HIMSELF. The Scripture says:

Hebrews 7:24-28 this man {Jesus}, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. 26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. 28 For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.

The Old Covenant High Priest made animal sacrifices, first for himself, then for the people. But Jesus Christ offered Himself, eternal God and sinless Man, for our sins. He is consecrated for evermore. As our High Priest Jesus is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. The Old Covenant gave us a Law that gave us a High Priest who could fail. But under the New Covenant Jesus Christ is our High Priest. As our High Priest He offered Himself once, when he offered up himself. It was ONE AND DONE for Jesus! What does the Bible say?

Hebrews 9:11-12 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

As Priests, We Live By A Divine “F” Word

1 Peter 2:7-8Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

If you are saved, your lifestyle will show it. You will live so as to honor the Lord Jesus Christ as your High Priest, and to obediently FOLLOW our God. This is clearly taught throughout the Scripture. The consequence of salvation is:

You become a Child of God
You gain the mind of Christ
You seek to follow God

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 … if One died for all, then were all dead: 15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

Jesus died for all so we would not live for ourselves, but for Him. Because we are God’s Children (this is the consequence of salvation) we are Priests, representatives of God to this world. We are under the command:

Romans 6:13 (ESV) Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

Romans 6:16 (ESV) Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Romans 6:18 (ESV) {and you} having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

Romans 6:19 (ESV) I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

1 Timothy 6:11 (ESV) But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

If you are a Child of God by faith in Christ, you are a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). You are not what you were. Beloved, your salvation – though free – has consequences that cannot be escaped.

You now belong to God. You do not belong to Satan, nor do you belong to Sin or this world. You belong to God. “You are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your Spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

Following Him, We PRAY To God For Ourselves And Others

1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

What are the spiritual sacrifices we offer up to God as His Priests?

1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV) Pray without ceasing.

Prayer is one of the things a Priest must do. Though we cannot pray all the time (for that is mentally impossible), we should be in a stage of life where we CAN pray at a moment’s notice. In the Old Testament Temple, incense was burned on an altar (Exodus 30:2) each morning and at twilight (Exodus 30:7-8) as a REGULAR OFFERING to the Lord. This symbolized the prayers of God’s people going up to Him. King David prayed:

Psalm 141:2 (ESV) Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

When John the Revelator looked into Heaven he saw:

Revelation 5:8 … golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

We are to be a PRAYING people, constantly seeking God’s will both for ourselves and others. Jesus told us in Luke 18:1 (ESV) that we ought always to pray and not lose heart.”

Following Him, We Offer Up PRAISE Unto Our God

We are told in:

1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice evermore.

Not just in the good times, but we rejoice in the bad. We who are saved belong to God, not to sickness, nor sin, nor Satan, nor anything or anyone else. We praise Him!

Hebrews 13:15 … Through {Jesus} then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

We praise God for the good times, but we also praise God for the seemingly bad times. Why? Because we know that “all things work together for good to those who love the Lord” (Romans 8:58). All things may not be good, but they “work together for good”.

Though Daniel did not understand why he and his friends were in captivity, he loved and praised God anyway – and was blessed beyond measure.

Though Joseph did not understand why his brothers sold him into slavery, he held on to the great truth that:

Genesis 50:20 As for you {dear brothers}, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive

Though Job was told by his wife to “curse God and die”(Job 2:9), Job kept his eyes on the Lord. “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive the bad?” God loves us. We are to trust that His love endures no matter what might come our way.

1 Peter 2:9-10 … ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light

Praise Him, Praise Him! Jesus our Blessed Redeemer!

We Who Are Saved Love The “F” Word

We love to follow Jesus!

1 Peter 2:7-10 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

Here is where the rubber meets the road. If you believe – that is, have a faith in Christ that saves your soul – then he is precious. You value Jesus. You want to hear of Jesus. You desire His Word, and seek to please Him with your life. But look what the Bible says next:

unto them which be disobedient”

If Jesus means nothing to your life – if you will not follow Him, and do as He says (for Jesus has said “If you love Me, you WILL KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS” (John 14:15; 15:10). The Priest follows the High Priest. The Priest follows God. This “Free Gift” of salvation was given so that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. If you will not follow God, if you will not heed this Scripture we call “The Bible”, if you will not honor Him Who saved you, then dear friend

… you are NOT saved!

Salvation has its consequence. You are called to follow the Lord Jesus. Not this world, not social media, not a group, a denomination, a politician, nor any other thing. You are a believer Priest, and YOU belong to God. May God the Holy Spirit touch your hearts with this His Word! Amen and Amen.

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Finding And Living In Kingdom Love

Photo by Pierre Blaché: https://www.pexels.com/photo/bird-s-eye-view-of-city-during-dawn-2834219/

Please turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Peter chapter 2.

Christians Are Bound By The Royal Law Of Love

Though Salvation is a free gift from God – a gift can neither earn nor deserve – once saved you are under the Law of Love. There are three pillars to the Royal Law:

1 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:29-30; Luke 10:27; Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 10:12; Mark 12:33; 1 John 5:2-5). Your love of God should bleed over into all that you so in life.

Illustration: One of the best illustrations I can think of the first commandment filled is in the work of one of the greatest composers, Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach wrote anthems, chorales, and cantatas for Church worship. He wrote also a number of so called “secular” concert pieces (like the Brandenburg Concertos), and a keyboard primer that is very popular (the Anna Magdalena notebooks). At the top of the first page of every manuscript Bach wrote the Latin initials for Jesu juva, meaning “Jesus, help me” and at the bottom of the last page he wrote Soli Deo Gloria, which means “Glory to God alone”. God wants us to put Him first in our hearts. The second pillar of our faith is:

2 You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Leviticus 19:18; Romans 13:9-10; Galatians 5:14; Matthew 19:19; James 2:8). Your love for God should bleed over in your love of what God has created.

We are not told to love ourselves, for most people naturally love themselves. In fact, in our day people love themselves TOO much, seeking to reassign their sex or their reality to suit their mood at the time. Our propensity to excessive self love – which is unhealthy both mentally and physically – stems to our fall from Eden. We are to love ourselves, but not more than God. We are to love others EQUALLY as we love ourselves. We should expect RESPECT from others, and give RESPECT to others. As we love ourselves, we are to treat others around us (whether we know them or not) the way we ourselves want to be treated.If you do not have self love and are considering suicide, please contact me and I will guide you to a counselor. Self hate is as unnatural as is excessive self love.

The third pillar of the Royal Law deals with the Family of God.

3 You shall love your fellow Christian as Jesus has loved you. (John 13:34; John 15:12; John 13:8)

Christians are members of the Family of God, citizens of the Kingdom of God, and as God is Light we are to be Light (1 John 1:5). Those not in the Kingdom of God live without regard to the Light of God and His glory. We live as children seeking to honor and glorify our Lord. We do this by loving others as Christ has loved us.

Christians are in a battle, and will remain in battle while we are in this world. Christianity and non-Christianity are locked in a battle that will not end until Christ comes. Those who are born once do not understand the things of God. The Bible says of the lost that though they know God, they glorify Him not as God. They are vain in their imagination, and their foolish hearts are darkened” (Romans 1:21). The Bible says their understanding is darkened, being alienated from the life of God because of the blindness of their hearts” (Ephesians 4:18). Those who are born once know that there is a God in Heaven. If they did not know, they would not curse His name so. They know, but refuse to follow.

The worldly practice self love rather than Kingdom love. Those who are “born again” by faith in Christ turn from self love to Kingdom Love.

As we read in chapter one:

1 Peter 1:22-23 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.

Illustrate: Every summer I “weed eat” my yard when I get through mowing it. I don’t use the standard “weed eater” with the motor and the string, but I use the “liquid weed eater”. I spray that stuff on my fences, else the grass and weeds will take it over. Left untreated, my yard would get out of control. In the Church we spray the “weeds” that spring up in our midst with the Word of God, killing the bad attitudes and bad habits that could easily take over and destroy our congregation.

We are to love like Jesus loved us – sacrificially, undeservedly, consistently, knowingly.

The Godly are those who do love to others. The ungodly love themselves above others, and strive to satisfy themselves in all they do. They are, as the Psalmist wrote:

Psalm 10:4-6 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts. 5 His ways are always grievous; Thy judgments {O God} are far above out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them. 6 He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity.

Whereas the Christian sings “As a tree, planted by the waters, I shall not be moved”, the unbeliever refuses to move toward God, to repent and follow Christ. A person CANNOT be born again apart from repentance, apart from surrendering yourselves to God your Savior. But Beloved, once you repent – turn from being your own god – and turn to God the Son in faith, God the Holy Spirit moves upon your life to cause you to be “born again”. This state of being is nothing that you can earn nor deserve – it is a gift of God. But YOU must make the decision to follow Jesus. Theologian Carl F.H. Henry said:

The Christian experience is always PERSONAL,
but never PRIVATE”
.

The Christian experience changes the output of your life. When you come to Jesus in faith, God the Holy Spirit comes to you in real time. You enter into a partnership with God. No one can do this for you. The Bible says that to be saved that:

Hebrews 11:6 {we must} “believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

What Does Christlike Love Look Like?

No one can come to God for you. You must come to Him, and believe that God has forgiven your sins for Christ’s sake. “God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). You are forgiven all your sins because you believe and receive that salvation that the Lord offers you through Jesus Christ. Peter is addressing Christians, born again believers, Children of God’s Kingdom. Let’s read our morning’s focal text:

1 Peter 2:1-5 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: 3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. 4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

Word Study: Our text starts with the word Wherefore. This ties what Peter is about to say with the “new birth” statement of 1 Peter chapter 1. If you are a child of God, you are to live for God. You are to live to glorify God. The Bible says we are to lay aside certain things as incompatible to Kingdom Life. The word laying aside is the Greek “ἀποτίθημι apotíthēmi, {pronounced ap-ot-eeth’-ay-mee}”, which means “to put away, cast off as unworthy, put to the side”. The word is first used in the Book of Acts when the Deacon Stephen was stoned to death by the Pharisees for preaching about Jesus. The Pharisees learned the Law of God, and modified the Law of God, taking God’s Word and putting their own spin upon it. God condemned the Pharisees for this, saying:

Mark 7:7 … in vain they worship me, teaching for doctrines {God’s Word} the commandments of men …

The Pharisees twisted the Word of God instead of obeying the Word of God. When Stephen challenged their religion by pointing them to faith in Jesus Christ, they carried him outside the city. Taking off their clothes beforehand, they cast them down (apotíthēmi) far from Stephen, then stoned him to death. They cared more for their clothing than they did a human life!

Christian, there are certain things that do not belong in our walk with God. The Scripture says:

Romans 13:12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off {apotíthēmi} the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

Illustrate: What is it that God tells us to “cast off”? These are all things that belong in the other kingdom, the fallen world. I was in my garage the other day when a wolf spider crawled across my hand. I didn’t look at it and say, “My, what a pretty thing, a marvel of engineering!”. No, I CAST IT OFF. It didn’t belong on my skin. If I could have caught it, I’d have squished it! Likewise, we are to CAST OFF those things unhealthy to our spiritual walk with God. We are now weed eating with liquid Word these things:

  • All malice: κακία kakía, {pronounced kak-ee’-ah}, a “desire to injure someone physically or spiritually”.
  • All guile: δόλος dólos, {pronounced dol’-os}, “deceitfulness, trickery, craftiness. To set out bait so as to trap.”
  • hypocrisies: ὑπόκρισις hupŏkrisis, {pronounced hoop-ok’-ree-sis}, to “have two faces, a displayed face, and a secret face”. Hypocrisy was one of the things that Jesus often charged the Pharisees with (see Matthew 23:28; Mark 12:15). Jesus even called the hypocrisy of the Pharisees as “the leaven of the Pharisees” (Luke 12:1).
  • envies: φθόνος phthónos, {pronounced fthon’-os}, to “want what someone else has, to covet”. The Pharisees were envious of the Lord Jesus’ following, and for this reason they delivered Him to Pilate to be executed (see Matthew 27:18; Mark 15:10). Envy is the violation of the Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:17).
  • evil speakings: καταλαλία katalalía, {pronounced kat-al-al-ee’-ah}, which means “to backbite, to defame, to speak evil of another with the intent of destroying or murdering another person’s character”.

When we were children of darkness, we followed patterns of life that tore others down while building ourselves up. Now that we are children of God we are children of Light. We are called of God to – through the operation of the Holy Spirit – to cast off anything that dishonors God and hurts others. The Stepbrother of Christ wrote:

James 1:19-21 (ESV) Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

As Children of God we are to put off or put away our old way of life, and put on the Word of God. We are to ask our God, “What is Your will for my life?”, then we are to prayerfully turn to the Scripture to find that will.

When I decide to live my Christian faith following the world and not the Word of God, I HINDER my walk with God, I HURT the Kingdom of God on this earth, and I HELP DISCOURAGE others from seeking salvation by faith in Christ.

Ephesians 4:21-24 (ESV) assuming that you have heard about {Jesus} and were taught in {Jesus}, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

As Christians in the Kingdom of God, our minds are to be redirected from what the WORLD says is right to what GOD says is right. How do we do this?

The Word Of God Teaches Us How To Walk & Grow Spiritually

1 Peter 2:2-3 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby: 3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Illustrate: We are given a beautiful picture of the Grace Walking Christian. When Sherry and I were much younger, I worked a swing shift in the Air Force for several years. We had, at that time, one baby and one toddler in our home. I’d get home from work around midnight, and stay up till about 1:30 am when the baby woke up. I’d hear him rustling, and starting to fuss. You see, his little belly was empty. I’d quickly warm up his bottle, and go get him out of the crib before he woke his big brother. He’d see that bottle, and his eyes would be focused on the bottle, not on me. When I put the nipple in his mouth he’d start sucking, desperately, quickly, to get as much down as fast as possible. I’d always say, “Slow down, Son”, but he wouldn’t listen. He wanted that bottle!

As a baby does with a bottle of milk, we who are Christians should desire the sincere milk of the Word. The word translated sincere is the Greek ἄδολος ádolos, {pronounced ad’-ol-os}, which means “pure, something unmixed with anything else”. As Christians, we grow in our faith and in our spirituality as we intake the teachings of the Word of God into our lives, and live by those teachings. We need to be careful about following televangelists and New Age television teachers who express opinions totally divorced from the Word of God. We need to always remember that Satan knows how to quote Scripture out of context, and that he used this tactic even with our Lord Jesus. Satan, the Bible says:

The Devil Loves To Supplement: Matthew 4:5-7 (ESV) {Satan} took {Jesus} to the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Those who would do evil, and disrupt the Kingdom of God’s work on this earth often takes the Scripture, and twists it from what it says to what they want it to say. We are to desire the SINCERE or PURE Word of God, for only this grows us as believers. The Apostle told his student:

2 Timothy 3:15-17 (ESV) … from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

It is the Scripture that you must know and understand in order to be a power filled Child of the King. Satan is constantly bombarding our minds with the doctrines of darkness and the ways of sin. But it is God’s desire that we be like Jesus Christ in all our lives – not just at Church, but at work, in the market place, and at home. We abide in Jesus by reading, studying, and meditating on this Word. It is the Word of God that washes the darkness out of our lives:

Ephesians 5:25-27 (ESV) … Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

It is the Word of God that converts us,
and the Word of God that
cleanses us.

It is the Word of God PREACHED and RECEIVED that changed you. You must keep on receiving that Word! If the newborn baby stops eating it will, in time, die. The child must be fed. You must be fed. The Christian who will not feed on the Word of God by regularly reading it and studying it will, in time, be consumed of the world. The reason we have sickly and useless Christians in every age of every Church is because they will not seek God’s Word. You must long for the pure milk of the Word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation. But the Scripture adds this:

1 Peter 2:3-4If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. TO WHOM COMING, as unto a Living Stone, disallowed indeed of men, but Chosen of God and Precious.

The Christian – person who is BORN AGAIN – has tasted that the Lord is gracious. You’ve tasted of God’s Grace. The Psalmist wrote:

Psalm 34:8 (ESV) Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed in the man who takes refuge in Him!

Salvation comes to us when we recognize that we are sinners in need of the Savior. Where do sinners need to go? They go to JESUS. Jesus Christ came for sinners. Those who follow Jesus are broken people that He is fixing. The Bible tells us that Jesus had just healed a paralyzed man by telling him,

Your sins are forgiven you!

That man picked up his bed, and walked. Jesus Christ came to heal the broken, to embrace the sinner. With a Word Jesus healed that man – and that man did what JESUS SAID, he PICKED UP HIS BED AND WALKED. He did not remain in that bed. Where Jesus has been, life is. Where Jesus works,

the blind see,
the deaf hear,
the cripple walk,
the lepers are healed,
the demons are cast out,
the lost are found,
and those in darkness are brought into light.


Healing this man by saying, “Your sins are forgiven you”, Jesus goes on His way. Seeing a Tax Collector named Matthew, Jesus said simply,

Follow Me” (Matthew 9:9)

And Matthew got up from his tax collection tables and began to follow Jesus. That’s tasting grace. That’s what salvation looks like. Matthew invited Jesus home, and invited all his undesirable friends to come and meet Jesus (Matthew 9:10). When the Pharisees and Scribes heard of this, they asked those who followed Jesus:

Matthew 9:11 … Why does Jesus eat with tax collectors and other sinners? (my paraphrase)

When Jesus heard this He said:

Matthew 9:12-13 … They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. 13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Jesus came for the broken who would come to Him. He came to lead us away from wasted life, to a life of “joy unspeakable, and full of glory” in the Lord. We are saved when we, calling upon the Name of Jesus, repent of being our own gods, and pledge our lives to His care. We follow Him. We live because of Him. We live for Him. Our Jesus is the Living Stone, disallowed indeed of men, but Chosen of God and Precious. Jesus is the Living Stone that God is using to build His Kingdom on this earth.

If I Am A Christian I Am Part Of A Much Greater Purpose
Than Just My Satisfaction

1 Peter 2:4-5 To Whom coming, as unto a Living Stone, disallowed indeed of men, but Chosen of God, and Precious, 5 Ye also, as Lively Stones, are built up a spiritual house ….

God has a purpose in saving you. What is that purpose? First, “I am to be like Jesus”. Saved by Grace, I am adopted into the Family of God by the operation of the Holy Spirit. We who are saved by faith in Christ are “predestined unto the adoption of Children by Jesus Christ to Himself” (Ephesians 1:5). The Holy Spirit of adoption indwells us (Romans 8:15). Jesus did not just come to this earth to make payment for our sins, but also to bring us into the Family and kingdom of God. The Scripture says:

Galatians 4:4-5 when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

Jesus is THE Son of God. We who are saved are sons of God. Jesus served God the Father as THE Son of God. We serve God the Father as sons of God.

Illustrate: Jesus Is The “LIVING Stone” in the spiritual House of God. We Are The “LIVELY Stones” in the spiritual House of God. When I and my kids were younger, we used to play a game called “Pick Up Sticks”. In the game the sticks were divided into three or four colors. Holding the bundle of sticks in my hand, I would drop them – and they would scatter everywhere. The object was to use a stick to retrieve your colored sticks out of the pile – all without disturbing other sticks. While I had the bundle of sticks in my hand, ALL THE STICKS pointed in the SAME DIRECTION. But once my was removed, the sticks pointed in every direction, the very definition of confusion.

The Church is like this. While Jesus has His hand around us, and we are heeding and doing the Word of God, we are a bundle of sticks all facing in the same direction. But when we neglect to cling to Jesus and this, His Word of God, then we fall into a big, messy pile. Jesus is the Living Stone, we are to be lively stones. We are to be like Jesus. Dr. Adrian Rogers preached a sermon just before he went to be with Jesus. In that sermon Dr Rogers said:

The curse of [our age] is that we have many Churches filled with baptized pagans. We have a full Church of empty people. They have culture but not Calvary, ritual but not reality, form but not force, religion but not righteousness.”

Part of the reason for this confusion is because televangelists and preachers have emphasized “Salvation is a free gift” in their preaching, but have ignored Sanctification. Salvation is indeed a free gift. Jesus Christ came offering “the gift of God” (John 4:10). The “gift of God” cannot be obtained with money (Acts 8:20). The Bible tells us that

Romans 6:23 (ESV) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You cannot earn nor deserve your salvation. But once saved, God brings you into His Family, and you are given a Heavenly Stewardship. You were saved from sin – not to continue in sin – but to serve the Lord. Jesus Christ does not save you IN your sin, but FROM your sin. As a born again child of God you are called to …

Ephesians 4:1 … walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called

Colossians 1:10 walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God

1 Thessalonians 2:12 … walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

Beloved, the saved are to walk worthy of God. We are to be imitators of Jesus. We are to live our lives so as to please our Heavenly Father. Are you “born again”? If so, you are …

1 Peter 2:5 … an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. …

Jesus is your High Priest, and you are a holy priesthood, left on this earth to represent God. Are you? Or have you drifted away from serving the Lord? Perhaps you never were saved in the first place. Dear ones, make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). Make sure you are saved by faith in Christ. If you are, follow Him. He is your High Priest, and you are a Holy Priesthood to God. May God the Holy Spirit bless you, and draw you closer to God daily. For the glory of Christ. Amen and Amen!

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The Joy Of The Lord Is Your Strength

Photo by Jill Wellington: https://www.pexels.com/photo/lady-in-beach-silhouette-during-daytime-photography-40192/

Introduction From Ezra: We Must Be Willing To Follow

Please turn with me in your Bibles to EZRA chapter 8. We will shortly be in NEHEMIAH chapter 8, but you can only understand what is going on in Nehemiah 8 if you first look at Ezra 8. There’s a reason that the Jews considered Ezra & Nehemiah to be one book. Ezra the Priest and Scribe brought exiles from Babylon with him to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. How did Ezra get out of captivity to do this? We read:

Ezra 7:6-7 This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him. 7 And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king.

When Ezra came from Babylon, King Artaxerxes allowed him to come with a large expedition. Why? Because the hand of the Lord his God upon him. Ezra sought God’s will in all that he did. As a result, God supplied Ezra with all the people and craftsmen needed to get the job done. The Nethinims were servants that assisted the Levites and priests in the services of the sanctuary. Why did God bless Ezra in his endeavor? Because

Ezra 7:10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

Ezra did not seek our his own will, nor did he allow his heart to harden. In America we have hardened our hearts against God. In our Churches they are “OUR” Churches and not God’s. We have allowed our hearts to harden against God’s direction.

Beloved, We need REPENTANCE in America,
and in our Church gatherings. We need God and His Word.

God says:

Proverbs 28:13-14 (ESV) Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.

The reason Israel as a nation is divided and exiled into various places is because they allowed their hearts to harden. A hardened heart provokes God. The Bible warns us:

Hebrews 3:8-12 (ESV) Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

Ezra and Zerubbabel his assistant – along with those who came with him – restored the Temple because God was their focus.

The Temple was rebuilt NOT through the miraculous power of God on stone and wood, but through those involved PRAYING and FASTING and SEEKING GOD’S WILL.

Look to Ezra 8:18 … And by the GOOD HAND OF OUR GOD UPON US they brought us a man of understanding

Ezra led the people to pray, because he knew “except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1). It was God Who led the right workers into the place so the rebuilding could occur. It was a PRAYING PEOPLE that God would bless. We read:

Ezra 8:21, 23 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. 23 So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was entreated of us.

Ezra was doing what our Lord Jesus told us to do. When Ezra prayed, he denied himself comfort and pleasure while he sought the face of God. He said, that we might afflict ourselves before our God. Isn’t that what Jesus told us to do? Jesus said:

Matthew 16:24 … If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

America Christianity hates this type of thing – but this is the type of faith that God calls us to. The great commandment is:

Matthew 22:37-38 …. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment.

God wants our ALL, not our leftovers. Years of preaching easy believism has imported a type of Christian into the Church that runs from suffering, despises long sermons, and only wants to apply the Word of God to their lives as long as it does not interfere with their pleasures. God does not hear such selfish, God excluding prayers. He says You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.(James 4:2-3).

Ezra had enemies. We will always have enemies that stand against the will and Word of God. But Ezra kept his eyes – and the people’s eyes – on pleasing God. We read:

Ezra 8:31 we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way.

Ezra 7:8 tells us that Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the 7th year of King Artaxerxes, whereas Nehemiah arrived in King Artaxerxes 20th year (Nehemiah 2:1) – some 13 years later.

It took Ezra 13 years to rebuild the Temple, but Nehemiah and his crew only 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15). Following the rebuilding of the wall the two teams – Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s – come together to worship and praise God for what had been done.

The People Came Together In One Accord To Hear God’s Word

Nehemiah 8:1-3 And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel. 2 And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. 3 And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.

I love the phrase all the people gathered themselves together as one man. The same phrase is used in Ezra 3:1. Both Ezra and Nehemiah’s teams were in one accord with God, and now both teams are in one accord with each other. There is nothing that God’s people can’t accomplish when they are in one accord vertically and horizontally. The Apostle wrote of our target unity:

Ephesians 4:1-3 (ESV) I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The devil loves to introduce disharmony into the Kingdom of God. He did this in the Garden of Eden, and does it now in local Churches. Unity is so important in God’s Kingdom. The Apostle told the Church of Corinth:

1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV) I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

2 Corinthians 13:11 (ESV) brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

And further encouraged the Church at Phillippi:

Philippians 1:27 (ESV) let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,

Philippians 2:2 (ESV) complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

God can only work in an environment where the people are in one accord with one another. However, we must FIRST be in one accord with the Bible, God’s Holy Word. Doctrine matters. What the Bible says matters. The Apostle said:

Love – But Avoid – Troublemakers In The Church!

Romans 16:17 (ESV) I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

I find this interesting, because it is the polar opposite of what the world and the worldly Church believes today. The Scripture says that the Lord hates …. one who sows discord among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16, 19). To those who go about striving to destroy the harmony of any Church I say – never forget – God HATES what you are doing. What is our standard? Is it human opinion, social justice, some Internet fad? No, for God called out those who used their opinions as if they were Scripture. God said,

Mark 7:7 (ESV) in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (see also Matthew 15:9; Ephesians 4:14; 1 Timothy 1:10; 1 Timothy 6:3; Titus 2:1)

What is contained in this Book, the clear teachings of God, set the standards of our faith. That which gives our faith power and endurance is “thus saith the Lord”. When the people of these two repair teams came together, we read:

Nehemiah 8:1 … they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel.

The people wanted to hear the Word of God. They were not bored by it, nor complacent in it. The people understood that which few Christians understand today:

The only way to maturity in my walk with God is through reading, studying, and applying the Scripture to my life.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God {Greek Theopneustos, literally “God breathed”), and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the {Greek anthropos = person} of God may be {Greek artios = complete or mature}, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

God designed the believer to “do good works” (Ephesians 2:10), not bad works. We are called to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). It is the Word of God, the Bible, that grows the faith of the citizen of God’s Kingdom. What does the Bible say?

Proverbs 30:5 Every Word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him.

The people wanted to hear the Word of God. They were thirsty for it.

Nehemiah 8:3And {Ezra} read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.

As Ezra is reading the Law, he is standing before the water gate. During the Festival of Booths, also called Tabernacles or Sukkot (which is what time this is) the Water Gate was opened. The Kohanim (priests descended from Aaron) drew water out of the Shiloach Brook in a golden pitcher, and brought it through this gateway into the Temple. “Once in the Temple, the priest poured the water into a special funnel from where it flowed into the ground” (reference here). Ezra chose to read and teach the Word of God from this area. This is the same area where our Lord Jesus cried out during the Feast of Booths/ Tabernacles:

John 7:37-39 (ESV) On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

It was God’s Holy Spirit Who guided both Ezra and Nehemiah as they did the work of God. It was God’s Holy Spirit Who guided the craftsmen to rebuild both the Temple and the walls. Where there is unity is seeking the glory of God, there will the Spirit reveal Himself through the hands and feet of God’s people. Something else we can see that is VERY interesting:

Nehemiah 8:3 And {Ezra} read therein {in the Scripture} before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.

Ezra reads and explains the Law from the morning until midday, from the sunrise until about noon – about 6 hours. The people focused on God’s Word that entire time. What else is amazing about this? Read on:

Nehemiah 8:4-5 And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. 5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up:

Ezra didn’t ask anyone to stand up. When he opened the Book, all the people stood up. There is no indication they ever sat down throughout that entire time. There was a time when I would ask people to stand up in respect to the reading of God’s Word. But over time I stopped doing this. Why? Because I preach and quote extensively, reading scripture after scripture when I preach the sermons God gives me. But further,

If I have to ask you to stand up, then God is not in it. These people stood up because some of them had been through 13 years of trial as they rebuilt the Temple, and God got them through it.

The People Stood Worshiping God

Nehemiah 8:6-7 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7 Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place.

Word Study: When Ezra praised God as the great God, he was declaring that God is One, and none others are God. This is not an inclusionary but a very specific, exclusionary truth. There are NOT many ways to God. There are NOT many true Gods. There is only One True God, and we approach Him through His revealed Word. The people cried out Amen, Amen” (Hebrew אָמֵן ‘āmēn). The Free Bible Commentary notes:

This Hebrew word comes from the root “to be firm.” It is related etymologically to the Hebrew word emunah, which is found in Habakkuk 2:4 and is translated in English “faith.” Here the crowd affirms the truth that the Lord is a great God (see Nehemiah 1:5; 4:14; 9:32).”

The people prayed as God prescribes,

1 Timothy 2:8 … (ESV) {we} should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling

Francis Schaeffer – a theologian whose works I have studied – noted in his book The Mark of the Christian (pg 26-27):

We {as Christians often} rush in, being very, very pleased, it would seem at times, to find other men’s mistakes. We build ourselves up by tearing other men down. This can never show a real oneness among Christians.

There is only one kind of man who can fight the Lord’s battles in anywhere near a proper way, and that is the man who, by nature, is unbelligerent. A belligerent man tends to do it because he is belligerent … The world must observe that, when we must differ with each other as true Christians, we do it not because we love the smell of blood, the smell of the arena, the smell of the bull fight, but because we must for God’s sake”.

Nehemiah 8:8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.

Word Study: Notice that the leaders of Israel – not just Ezra – read from the Book of the Law of God. Notice that they did not offer their own opinions of what the Bible said. They read … distinctly. The word distinctly is the Hebrew פָּרָשׁ pârâsh, {pronounced paw-rash’}, which means “to make clear”. The people have been in captivity so long that many have forgotten some Hebrew, so the leaders made sure they understood the words. Dr. Constable’s Soniclight Commentary notes:

Not only did the leaders read the Word of God, but they also translated it from the Hebrew language into Aramaic, the common language of the Persian Empire. Some of the Jews present did not know Hebrew (13:24), having grown up in Babylon and elsewhere, away from Jews who maintained fluency in the Hebrew language. The written translation of the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic, with comments added, was the Targum (literally, ‘translation’)”

Those on the stand with Ezra went out into the crowd, and helped the people understand what God was telling them. This is one reason why, in the Church Age, that the Pastor of the local Church must be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). The Word of God is so very important to the Kingdom of God.

The People Repented, But Nehemiah Called For A Celebration

Nehemiah 8:9 And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.

Word Study: We are told that Nehemiah … is the Tirshatha. The word Tirshatha means “Governor”. Though Ezra was given authority to go and rebuild the Temple, only Nehemiah was named “Governor” by King Artaxerxes. The people began to weep because, as the Law of God was read, they realized how foolish it was that they were even in captivity in the first place. Had God’s people followed God’s Word, they would have never been conquered by first Babylon, then Medo-Persia. Our God is powerful, and there is nothing He cannot do. But our God will not allow us to run in anarchy, doing whatever we please regardless as to His Word.

God honors His Word.

As the people realized their failures, and repented, Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites told the people to dry their tears, and to begin to celebrate. These people had rededicated their lives unto the Lord Who loved them.

Nehemiah 8:10-11 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength. 11 So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved.

Too often when we have walked away from God, and repent and return, that we are plagued by guilt and sorrow. This is what the devil loves to do to us. Beloved, there is nothing we can do to “pay back” what we did while we were in sin. The Bible never speaks of PENANCE, but of REPENTANCE.

PENANCE is the foolish notion that a finite mortal such as I can repay an offense against an Infinite Mortal such as God by doing some finite, mortal work. This is a lie from hell that cripples us.

What do we do when we have sinned? Repent. Turn back to God. Put the sin under the Grace of God. What does God in His Word say?

1 John 1:9 (ESV) If we confess our sins, {God} is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

When we CONFESS our sins, the Greek ὁμολογέω homologeō, we “say the same thing about” our sin that God says”. We acknowledge God was right all along, and turn from that sin back to His loving embrace. Here is where power is! Nehemiah told them,

the joy of the Lord is your strength

When we do what God tells us to do, God is joyous, because we are not hurting ourselves or even killing ourselves with sin. The “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Jesus Christ died on Calvary and rose from the grave not just to cover your sins and make you right with God, but so that we can walk with God, unenslaved by sin (Romans 6:16-18). Freed from sin, “you are now the servants of righteousness”. As servants of righteousness, we obey our God, and do the things that He tells us to do. God the Son told us:

John 15:8-11 (ESV) By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

When we walk with God in obedience to His Word, we have “joy unspeakable, and full of glory”. May we all emulate Nehemiah and the returning children of God. Amen and Amen!

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Gird Up The Loins Of Your Mind (Parts 1&2)

Photo by Maria Pop: https://www.pexels.com/photo/knight-armor-339805/

Turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Peter. As we have just finished studying through James, you should know where 1 Peter is. Hebrews, James, 1 Peter. This is part 1 of a two part message. May God the Holy Spirit open hearts and move in our lives for the glory of Christ Jesus, and for the growth of the Kingdom of God.

Part 1

The Bible tells us that the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone(Ephesians 2:20). When the Church was first formed on the Day of Pentecost so many years ago, the Bible says that those who belonged to the Church by faith in Christ devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers(Acts 2:42). The Apostles were those men whom Jesus named and called “Apostles”, men who knew the Word of God, the Old Testament Scripture. These hand picked men (and yes, even Judas was handpicked) walked with and sat at the feet of Jesus for over 3 ½ years. Three of these Apostles were particularly taught of Christ. This “inner circle” was Peter, James, and John. When Jesus called James and John, He named them “Boanerges” or “The Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). The Bible doesn’t tell us why Jesus named them “Son of Thunder”, but we can guess that

the way they lived their lives for the Lord (much like a thunder storm) changed the world in which they ministered. Jesus took two competitive brothers and transformed them into world changers.

James was the first Apostle to be killed (Acts 12:2), as he was the Pastor at the Church of Jerusalem. His brother John was the last Apostle to die. John was exiled on the Island of Patmos, and there he was given great revelation regarding the end of days. John also wrote more of the New Testament than any other Apostle. He was “the disciple whom Jesus loved”.

What about “Peter”?

Peter was a rough fisherman when Andrew his brother (another Apostle) introduced Jesus to him. Peter was called Simon” until Jesus renamed him Peter” (John 1:42). The name “Pétros” means “a piece of rock”. Peter would go on – after many missteps and mistakes – to become the Chief Apostle, rock solid because he learned to live his life standing on the Rock that is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4; Matthew 21:42).

God used the Apostles and Prophets to write His Bible (see 2 Peter 1:21). As the Chief Apostle and Fisherman writes, moved by the Holy Spirit of God, he tells us:

1 Peter 1:13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

Gird Up Your Loins – Listen To God’s Word, Not Satan’s

Word Study: Let’s focus on the command, gird up the loins of your mind. The words gird up is the Greek ἀναζώννυμι anazṓnnymi, {pronounced an-ad-zone’-noo-mee}. In the ancient world – the Arabic and Hebraic desert countries – citizens wore long flowing robes to keep the hot sun and sand off of their bodies. These long robes became a hazard when engaging in battle. The wise warrior would, prior to battle, gather his flowing robes, and pass the loose ends under his leather belt, freeing his legs and feet from a tripping hazard. The loins” {Greek ὀσφῦς osphŷs, [pronounced os-foos’]} is the center of the person, the place where generative power or semen resided. By “girding up” your loins, you not only removed a tripping hazard out of your way, but you also added additional protection to one of the most sensitive areas of your body. When Peter says:

gird up the loins of your mind”

he is telling us to prepare ourselves for battle – and ANYTHING GOES. Our enemy will do whatever he can to win. Our enemy attacks first in your mind. Our enemy has always done this. The Bible says:

James 1:8 (ESV) {The} double-minded man {is} unstable in all his ways.

Illustrate: The double mind is the dangerous mind. Several years ago I bought a house here that had a beautiful Bradford Pear Tree in the front yard. I loved that old tree. The trunk came up to about my chin, then split into two parts, like a fork. One day we had heavy winds, and the next morning I came out my beautiful tree was split in two. Several brothers and sisters from the Church came and helped me clean it up. But the tree destroyed itself. The double minded will destroy themselves.

Satan loves to help foster a double mind in us. If he can get us to be double minded, in time we will destroy ourselves!

Satan, originally called Lucifer, (“Bright and Shining One”) tries to lead us into following his same path of destruction. A few of the names he is given in Scripture are:

Satan (the Accuser of the Brethren) 52x
Devil (the Slanderer of God and Man) 102x
Tempter (he tempts to sin)
Old Serpent (Revelation 12:9)
Deceiver of the whole world
The Father of Lies (John 8:44)

The devil leads us to do anything that will cause us todishonor Christ, and to hurt God’s glory. We who are saved are to – with love – stand firm in what our God has commanded us to do. The Scripture says:

2 Timothy 2:24-26 (ESV) And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

The devil plays a mind game. If he cannot lead people away from salvation in Christ, he will do his best to lead the Christian away from the blessings of God. To put it bluntly, if Satan can’t get you to enlist in HIS ARMY, he will do what he can to lead us to betray our Commander in Chief, Jesus Christ. This is what the Devil – that Old Serpent – did in the Garden of Eden. The Devil questions the Word of God:

Genesis 3:1 (ESV) “Did God actually say ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the Garden?’”

Questioning the Word of God, the devil waits for our response so he can decide what to say next. If we resist the devil, he would flee from us (James 4:7). But too often, like Eve, we engage the devil. When we do, the devil comes out directly with his lie.

Genesis 3:4-5 (ESV) “You will surely NOT die! For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”

The snare of the devil is to question the Word of God.

This is how the devil ensnares us. He questions the Word of God. He introduces something against what God has said. Some of the questions of the devil you may have heard on mainstream media:

Has God really said He made them male and female?”


“Did Jesus really say that God made them male and female?” (Matthew 19:4)


“Did God require a man to unite to his wife only?” (Genesis 2:24)


“If you feel like you’re a woman in a man’s body, why would God NOT want you to change yourself?” (Deuteronomy 22:25; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Ephesians 5:21-33)

God wants you to honor yourself first – after all, He loves you. Why shouldn’t you take vengeance on your enemy?” (Romans 12:17-19)

If you’re poor, Jesus wants you to be rich. Why would it be wrong to steal to feed your family?” (Luke 6:20; Matthew 5:3; 26:11)

The Bible doesn’t really say that abortion is wrong? It’s not a person until it leaves the womb! (Genesis 9:6)

If God loves you, He wouldn’t want you to be sick, would He? This sickness must be of the devil!” (1 Peter 1:7; Romans 8:28)

Why should you forgive that person? After all, you’re important! Teach them a lesson. God will understand.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

Just do what makes you happy. God wants you to be happy.”
(Psalm 1:1-2; John 13:17; James 5:11; 1 Peter 3:14; 4:14)

You need to go along with the crowd – or you’re going to be hurt!” (1 John 2:15-16)

I could continue on and on, but I’ll stop here. Satan will do anything he can to get us to betray our Lord, to become ineffective as members of the Kingdom of God. We need to get back to the Word of God, and actually SEE what GOD has said.

Gird Up Your Loins: Know Your Final Destination

Illustrate: There was a movie that became a series of movies a few years ago called “Final Destination”. In that movie franchise, “Death” was an enemy that stalked people who got away from death. The movie itself was somewhat silly, and gory. Death is not a person that stalks you. In fact, death is NOT your enemy if you belong to God through faith in Christ Jesus.

If You Are Saved By Faith In Christ, Your “Final Destination” Is Not Death, But Life. Heaven Is Your Home!

1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

This world is not my home I’m just a-passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home In this world anymore.
Oh Lord, you know I have no Friend like You,
If heaven’s not my home, then Lord, what will I do?
The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home In this world anymore.

Before the Christian is saved, we are “strangers and foreigners” to the Kingdom of God. This world was very much our home, our only destination. Our King was ME, what I wanted. Our Joy was PLEASURE, what felt good. There was no such thing as sin, only SELF ACTUALIZATION and SELF SATISFACTION. We were far off from God.

But then Jesus came.

Ephesians 2:13-19 But now in Christ Jesus ye who {at one time} were far off are made {near to God} by the blood of Christ. 14 For {Jesus} is our peace, Who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us {and God}; … 16 And that {Jesus} might reconcile {us} unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity {by His Cross} … 19 Now therefore you are NO MORE STRANGERS AND FOREIGNERS {to God’s Kingdom}, but fellow citizens with the Saints, and of the household of God

My “final destination” is glory in Heaven. My Lord and
Savior is Jesus Christ!

My King is Jesus, not Social Media.
The Kingdom of God is where I abide and hide.
God is my Constant Companion, my Father, my Brother, my Help.
When I leave this life, it will not be to death, but to glory and life eternal.
Because of Jesus!

The Old Covenant Saints – those of the Old Testament – knew that Messiah was coming. They were saved by believing in the promise of God. These Old Covenant Saints …

Hebrews 11:13, 16 … all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. …. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

We who are saved are distinctly different from the world. We follow Jesus, not the latest fad. We are influenced by Jesus, not by some Social Media celebrity.

1 Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

Gird Up Your Loins: You Are Chosen By God

Word Study: When Peter addresses the Christian he calls us Elect, the Greek ἐκλεκτός eklektós, {pronounced ek-lek-tos’}. This word means “the chosen”.

God CHOSE to offer you salvation through the Blood of Jesus.
If you are saved, you CHOSE to receive Jesus.
You are God’s possession, not Satan’s nor man’s.

Just as God the Son chose His Apostles, you are chosen of God. He CHOSE to offer you salvation. God did not CHOOSE to offer salvation to the angels, but unto humanity, unto “whosoever will”. Jesus was often found speaking to sinners, telling them that God was calling them to salvation. To be saved, we must PUT DOWN OUR GODS and follow Jesus. He said:

Matthew 16:24-25 … If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

Jesus calls whosoever will to salvation. Once called, we must REPENT and follow Him. Jesus and Jesus alone is the means to salvation. Read further:

1 Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

The Christian is a work in progress. God is working on you through abrasion, through pruning, through pain, through time.

Once saved, God the Holy Spirit begins to sanctify you, to set you apart from this world. God works a work in your life, and ongoing work that does not cease until we hit glory in Heaven. What does the Apostle say next? Unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. The Christian follows His Savior. We OBEY our Savior and Lord. Our sins are placed under the blood of Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus, we who are saved belong to God. We continue:

1 Peter 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

The Christian is “begotten … again” or BORN AGAIN
unto a LIVELY HOPE

The first time we were “born” into this world, we were “born of water” (John 3:5). We came out of our mama’s and were “born” into this world, creatures of flesh and blood. Being born into the world, we were born sinners. Sinners cannot walk with God. Jesus said,

John 3:3 (ESV) “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

We who are saved are “Children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). Because we believed on Jesus, believing he died for our sins – that He paid our penalty before God the Father – the Holy Spirit has caused our New Birth. We have a LIVELY HOPE. Pastor John Piper put it this way:

Our first conscious experience of this new birth is the arising in our hearts of faith in Christ. You might say that the first cry of the newborn Christian infant is the cry of faith. Instead of “waa, waa”, the heart feels “I see Him; He’s beautiful! I love Him, I want Him, I need Him. He’s my Savior!” That’s the cry of the new birth. And Paul says, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). So that baby cries, “Jesus is my Lord!” And He says that the evidence of the Holy Spirit coming into our lives is that we cry, “Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).

You did not make your first birth, nor do you make your second birth. Hearing His call, you must repent, and turn to Jesus. God causes our new birth when we heed His call. You’ve got an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.

Gird Up Your Minds: God WILL Prove & Keep You

1 Peter 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

When Peter speaks of salvation, it is something SECURED by the power of God and KEPT OR MAINTAINED by the power of God THROUGH FAITH. Pastor David Guzik writes:

God’s power is the garrison in which we find our security.” (Hiebert) We are kept by the power of God, but it is through faith, meaning our faith. The person who is kept is a person abiding in a continuing relationship of faith with God. We could say that faith activates the preserving power of God in the life of the Christian.”

The Christian is in a continuing relationship with God, much as a child is in a continuing relationship with a right thinking parent, or as a sheep is in a continuing relationship with a shepherd.

God is always with His Children. The Psalmist David said:

Psalm 23:4 though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, FOR THOU ART WITH ME

God is a God Who is near. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). God may seem far away at times, but this is probably because of sin in our lives. God is light, and in Him is no darkness (1 John 1:5). Faith forsakes the darkness and calls upon the Light. God delights in saving, in bringing souls into His family. Yet He cannot do so unless there is first REPENTANCE, and CALLING UPON JESUS. God calls ALL to salvation.

Isaiah 55:7 (ESV) let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Temptations – and our response to them – prove our faith!

1 Peter 1:6-7 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

The Christian is tried by this world. But the Christian so tried, does not succumb to despair or fear. We gird up the loins of our mind. We greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations. Though tried, we know that our God is with us. God allows trials to come upon the Unbeliever to perhaps make them stop and look unto Jesus to be saved. God allows trials to come on the believer to strengthen our faith in God. The fire of trials – much like a silver smith’s oven – tests our faith, showing us that our faith is indeed true and saving. I believe it was Dr. Charles Stanley who said:

An untried faith is an unproven faith”

Peter Was Tried: Before our Lord went to the Cross, He began to tell His disciples that He was going to that terrible tree. Jesus said (Matthew 16:21) “He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day”. When Peter heard this, he rebuked Jesus, and said it would never be so. Jesus told Peter, Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23). Peter’s faith would be sorely tried. Peter told Jesus that he would never deny Him, but Jesus told Peter (Matthew 26:34, ESV) This very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.

When Jesus was captured in Gethsemane, Peter followed the soldier and our Lord to where He was tried. Standing close enough to hear what was going on, those in that courtyard began to notice that Peter was one of those who were a constant companion of Jesus. The Scripture says:

Matthew 26:69-75 (ESV) a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Peter’s faith was sorely tried. Yet later, after the crucifixion and the resurrection of our Lord, Peter and the other disciples were out fishing. They caught no fish. The Bible tells us that our Lord Jesus called from the shoreline:

John 21:5-7 (ESV) “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.

Though Peter denied Jesus three times, when he saw Jesus he ran to the arms of Jesus. Peter had the privilege of sitting at Jesus’ feet, the joy of touching Him in His incarnation. We who are saved love Jesus no less than Peter. Though we may fail Him, we will run back to Him. Life without Jesus is no life at all. As Peter said to Jesus when our Lord asked, “Will you leave Me too?”:

John 6:68 … Lord, to Whom shall we go? Thou hast the Words of Eternal Life.

There is no life without Jesus in your life. Do you know Him? Do you know my Lord? If you do not, today could be the Day of Salvation for you. Jesus Christ died on Calvary for your sins. He made a way for you to reach God and leave the power of Satan and this world. Will you come? Oh, that God would move you, through His Spirit, to call on the Name of the Lord today. Through His Spirit I pray this. Amen and Amen!

Part 2

This morning we began to search out the truths of 1 Peter chapter 1, and in particular to focus on the words:

1 Peter 1:13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

Going into battle, the ancient warrior would gather his robes from around his feet. Pulling them upward tightly, he would secure the robes under a broad leather belt. The belt was comprised of two parts – the belt itself, and the buckle that secured the leather in place. Without the belt, the buckle was of no use. Without the buckle, the belt was of no use. Belt and buckle had to work together to be a place where the flowing robes could be bound, so that the fight could go forward. In our text we see:

1 Peter 1:13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

Word Study: The phrase be sober is the Greek νήφω nḗphō, {pronounced nay’-fo}. Though this word can mean to avoid alcohol or drugs, it most commonly means “to be careful and watchful, to be diligent”. We are called to keep our eye out for Satan, and to keep looking for ways to honor our Lord and Savior Jesus. The word is used in 2 Timothy 4:5, “Be watching in all things”, in 1 Thessalonians 5:8, “let us who are of the day be watchful, putting on the breastplate of faith and love. Christians are called to keep their spiritual eyes open for Satan and evil. We are to live to honor our Lord and Savior. We are also to hope. We do not have all of our salvation now. We will not receive our glorified bodies until Jesus returns for us. We will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven until we leave these earthly temples, our bodies. The leather belt that we tuck the robes of our lives into is composed of be sober and hope.

When Jesus was casting out demons by the Spirit of God, a woman in the crowd cried out to Jesus,

Blessed is the mother who gave birth to You and nursed You”.

Jesus replied,

Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it!” (NIV)

We who are saved in this dispensation are truly blessed. The Prophets looked FORWARD to the Cross and the Christ, and died trusting in His promises. We and the Apostles look BACKWARD at the finished Cross and the triumphant Christ.

1 Peter 1:8-10 Whom {Jesus} having not seen, ye love; in Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 10 Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:

I have never seen Jesus face to face. But because the Spirit caused me to be born again, I nonetheless love Him and believe in Him. The prophets foretold of the grace of God that would come through Jesus, but never saw it fulfilled. The prophets heard of the Coming Christ, and searched for the Coming Christ, but lived in a time of anticipation rather than fulfillment.

Gird Up The Loins: We Who Are Saved Are To Be
OBEDIENT CHILDREN Of God

1 Peter 1:14-16 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

The prophets and Old Testament Saints could not imagine living as children of God. In fact, the Old Testament Saints were so superstitious over using the name of God, that they usually abbreviated His name, making it unpronounceable. We who are saved live in a new dispensation, a new time, under God’s New Covenant. Nonetheless, if you are saved God tells you to be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. You are to imitate our God. What He considers Holy and Righteous, we are to do. We are to imitate Father, to be like Jesus.

Illustrate: I walked into a discount store on the Nashville Highway the other day, and on the door was a very large sign. On that sign were these words:

Smile, You’re On Camera”

I thought that was amusing. Honest people wouldn’t consider shoplifting. That sign was for the criminal, a nice way of reminding them that you are being watched. Christian, you are being watched. You are not on camera, but you are under the watchful eye of our Heavenly Father. He sees what you are doing, or NOT doing, for the Kingdom.

1 Peter 1:17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:

Illustrate: The little boy loved to shoplift. There was nothing better than getting something for nothing. No, he wasn’t saved, and to him and his friends shoplifting was a game. The child would go in and, looking around, if he saw no one looking, he would get an item on “five finger discount”. One day he pocketed a trinket, walked out of the store, and heard someone shout “Hey, You!”. Though they had no cameras in the store, there was a rounded mirror high up the wall, and someone was watching.

Like that child, many of you think that no one is watching you. You are seeking your own pleasure, whatever makes you happy, even if it violates the Word of God. You grin each time you “get away” with it. My friends, Peter reminds us that Someone is ALWAYS WATCHING, ALWAYS LISTENING, ALWAYS RECORDING what you do. He writes,

pass the time of your sojourning here in fear”.

God is watching you. Our Lord will judge us all one day, not for salvation, but for reward or loss. God sees the grudge you have in your heart toward another. He sees your bad behavior, your lovelessness, your selfishness. God without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work. You are a child of God. Your adoption came at a high price. DO NOT BELIEVE THAT GOD WILL LET YOU “GET AWAY” WITH ANYTHING.

1 Peter 1:18-21 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.

Jesus paid a very high price for your salvation. God saved us so that we could be entered into His family. God saved us so that we could work for His Kingdom on this earth. While we are on this earth, Peter says, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear. Our works will be judged one day. For those who are saved, your works will be judged by the Father as the works of His children. Did you honor the Lord with the life He gave you? If not, you shall lose reward in Heaven. But for those who are lost, without Christ in their lives, their works will be judged for condemnation. Their works will not measure up to an entrance into God’s glory, and thus the unbeliever will be cast into a “Lake of Fire”:

Revelation 20:15 if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Those who have given their lives to God through faith in Jesus need not fear this “lake of fire”. You who are saved are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24-27). But if you leave this life without Christ, you have no hope. If your name is not written in God’s Book of Life, you have no hope of Heaven.

Beloved, make your calling and election sure. If you do not have a continuing relationship with God through Jesus Christ, you are not saved. Repent. Turn to Him Who gave His life for you, and believe on Him. Follow God as dear children, walking in love as Christ has also loved us (Ephesians 5:1-2).

1 John 3:10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever does not do righteousness is not of God, neither is he that will not love his brother.

The Scripture is quite clear. Are you saved? Then you will:

  1. DO righteousness (what God says is right)
  2. LOVE (that is, do good toward) your brother

That’s not optional. Those who are “born again” or “born into Christ’s Kingdom” work with God to become more like Jesus every day. We are designed by God to do righteousness. We are designed by God tolove his brother. We are called of God to do good works, to be the light of Christ in a darkened and Satan inspired world. We are not perfect, but we are heading toward perfection. God is working on every one of us whom He has saved.

Gird Up The Loins: We Are To Pursue Biblical Love

1 Peter 1:22-23 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

As believers in Christ we have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren.

Obedience To God’s Word Is A Recurring Theme In Peter’s Work

When a person receives the Gospel through the preaching of the Word of God and the intervention of the Holy Spirit, that person commits to walking in it. Dr. Bob Utley notes:

The Gospel is (1) A Person to welcome (Jesus Christ),
(2) Truth about that Person to believe, (3) A life like that Person to live”.

We who are saved are called to a life of obedience to Christ (see Luke 6:46). When we obey the Word of God, loving as Christ calls us to love, we not only purify our souls but we bring light to our environment. The heart of the Gospel is to love one another with a pure heart fervently. We are to care for one another, as Jesus cares for us.

We do not imitate the world, but Jesus Christ and God the Father. The Holy Spirit Who indwells us leads us to following Jesus.

John 14:17 (ESV) the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

The Holy Spirit is called the “Spirit of Truth” because He guides us into God’s truths. Jesus said,

John 15:26 (ESV) But when the Helper comes, Whom I will send to you from the Father, the SPIRIT OF TRUTH, Who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me.

The Holy Spirit is called “The Comforter” because He comes alongside of us when we are suffering, and lifts us up. He guides us into all truth (John 16:13), and seals us to the Family of God (Ephesians 1:13). The Holy Spirit teaches us to love one another as Jesus loved us. As believers we are born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. It is the Word of God that gave us life. We believed the Word preached, calling upon the Name of the Lord, and were saved.

Gird Up The Loins: God’s Word Never
Fades
Or Becomes Obsolete

The Word of God never grows old. We grow old. Our bodies cease. But the Word of God is timeless, eternal, forever truthful.

1 Peter 1:24-25 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

This life – and the word of man – is but temporary. Man and mankind is in constant flux, constant change. The fad that, today, all had to have, dies in the winter of our cold hearts. Peter quotes

Isaiah 40:6-8 (ESV) … All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever.

All that Satan can sell us is the quickly passing fads of this present world. These things do not last. They are here today, and gone tomorrow. If Adam had not listened to Satan’s lies, we would all yet be in that Paradise called Eden. But Adam believed the lie – and Paradise was lost.

Consider Enoch: One of my favorite characters in the Scripture is a man simply named ENOCH. There are TWO ENOCHS in the Bible. The first Enoch is Cain’s son (Genesis 4:17-18). You remember Cain, don’t you? Cain in jealousy killed his brother Abel, committing the first murder recorded in the Scripture. This Enoch was a spoiled child. The Bible says that Cain built a city, and named it after his son Enoch (Genesis 4:17). This Enoch was fleshly, worldly, far from God as was his father Cain. But then there was ANOTHER ENOCH.

The Bible tells us that Adam’s son Seth “began to call upon the Name of the Lord”. Though an ancient line, Seth and his children believed in God, and relied on the promises and presence of God. The Bible tells us that:

Genesis 5:18 (ESV) … Jared had lived 162 years, he fathered Enoch.

Enoch loved God. The Scripture tells us that:

Genesis 5:21-24 (ESV) When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

Enoch walked with God every single day. In the New Testament, Enoch was in the lineage of Christ (see Luke 3:37). The Book of Hebrews tells us,

Hebrews 11:5-6 (ESV) By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Enoch kept his eyes on the Lord day after day, one day at a time, for 365 years. The word of the Lord endureth for ever. Then one day God took Enoch by the hand, and Enoch was translated into glory. Before Enoch was translated into glory, he upheld and taught the Word of God. We are told in Jude, the last place in Scripture to speak of Enoch:

Jude 14-15 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him

Enoch never compromised his faith, nor shirked the Word of God. He trusted the Word of God. He knew that God is faithful. Enoch was faithful to the faithful God. Beloved, this is what we all should want to be. Let us, like Enoch, remember this life is temporal. Let us walk with God our Savior daily, being led of the Spirit. Let us do so until we are not here, but there.

Oh, how I want to be there with my God. How about you? One Pastor wrote, “This is the difference between the two Enochs. The first lived in rebellion against God, but the second sought to please {God} and obey Him. This is really the difference between the saved and the unsaved today. The relationship that Enoch has with God can be ours too.”. May God the Holy Spirit bless the reading and preaching of His Word. Amen and Amen.

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The Importance Of Keeping The Word

Photo by Karen Laårk Boshoff: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-hand-with-fingers-crossed-9911969/

Please turn with me in your Bibles to James 5:12.

I was watching a video from Prager University the other day called The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions. The phrase is often attributed to a French Christian named Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). Dennis Prager noted that in the 20th Century about 100 million people were murdered by despotic regimes. Most of those murdered were Communist countries, regimes supported by “nice people” who had or believed they had good intentions. It was American and British citizens who, with good intentions, delivered to the Soviet Mass Murderer Joseph Stalin the secrets to making an atom bomb. Many of the teachers who bring up topics robbing young children of their sexual innocence are motivated by good intentions. Those who vote for politicians who want to defund the police – a sure way of increasing murder, rape, and other crimes in our country – have good intentions. Those who seek to criminalize hate speech have good intentions, though what they seek is a serious threat to our First Amendment rights.

Prager went on to say that the only way we can have a better world is by seeking wisdom. Knowledge without wisdom is useless. You can learn knowledge in a laboratory – but WISDOM COMES FROM GOD. James has told us this four times. In

James 1:5 we read, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (ESV).

Wisdom is the proper application of what God has said is wise. King Solomon, a man who got wisdom from God, said wisdom is BETTER THAN JEWELS, and ALL THAT YOU MAY DESIRE CANNOT COMPARE with {wisdom}. ‘I, Wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion’” (ESV). You can find knowledge without wisdom, but the Bible calls you a fool. But if you find knowledge THROUGH WISDOM, through God and His Word, then you are wise. James told us in chapter three:

James 3:13-18 (ESV) Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

To quote Dennis Prager,

Wisdom is asking WHAT DOES GOOD,
not WHAT IS WELL INTENTIONED”.

Wisdom comes from the “Word of Christ” (Colossians 3:16). It is a gift of God (Ephesians 1:17). “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding” (Proverbs 3:13).

Wisdom Is Found Only By Clinging To The Word Of God

James 5:12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

I found little that made any sense to me in the commentaries on this verse. One commentary suggested that “swear” meant to “say a dirty word, to curse”. The Greek ὀμνύω omnýō, {pronounced om-noo’-o} is never (that I could find) used in the sense of “making a curse or foul word”. The word occurs 27 times in 21 verses in the Greek New Testament. The word is several times used of God Himself, for instance,

Luke 1:73 The oath that {God} swore {omnýō} to our father Abraham.

Hebrews 3:11 {God said} I swore {omnýō} in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest.

Hebrews 6:13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear {omnýō} by no greater, He swore {omnýō} by Himself

There is a word that refers to using foul language, and it is the word ἀναθεματίζω anathematizō. When Peter denied knowing Jesus just prior to our Lord’s crucifixion, the Bible says:

Mark 14:71 But {Peter} began to CURSE {ἀναθεματίζω anathematizō} AND to SWEAR {omnýō}, saying, I know not this Man of whom you speak.

James is not talking about cursing or using foul language. He is talking about taking an oath. If you read the text carefully you can see this in the context:

James 5:12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath

Now what is James talking about? When I was saved in the Church of God of Prophecy I was told that “You are never to “swear” anything in court – but you can “affirm” it”. So when I raised my right hand to bind myself to the United States Air Force the oath I took was:

I [state your full name], Do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

{So help me God (optional)}.”

So I “affirmed” my oath. Is this what James was telling us to do? No! You need to understand the background of this text to understand the text. There is nothing wrong with swearing (see Acts 2:30; Hebrews 6:13-18). In fact, the Law of God says:

Deuteronomy 10:20 Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.

When our Lord Jesus stood before the High Priest in judgment, the Priest said to Jesus: I place You under oath by the living God, to tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.. Jesus replied, You have said it yourself (NASB). It is not wrong to swear in God’s name. However,

The Jews (in particular the Pharisees) had a practice of making oaths and then breaking them.

Jesus addressed this in His Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:33-37 (ESV) Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

The Pharisee would swear by heaven or by the earth or by Jerusalem, or even by your head. Then when they defaulted on what they said they were going to do, they would say, “Well, this doesn’t count, because I didn’t swear by the NAME OF GOD”.

This is like saying, “My promise don’t count because
I had my fingers crossed”.

Beloved, to say you will do something, then not do it, IS TO LIE. This is something that only the devil should do. When religious people twist the Word of God, or default on their own words, they are imitating Satan. Jesus chastised the Pharisees:

John 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

The devil is the father of lying. It was the devil who – in the guise of a serpent (Genesis 3:4; Revelation 12:9; 20:2) told Eve when tempting her to eat the forbidden fruit:

Genesis 3:4-5 (ESV) … “You will not surely die {if you eat this fruit}. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

God told Adam that “the day you eat of it, you will SURELY DIE”. The devil said, “You will NOT SURELY DIE”. God is a liar. What God told you is untruthful – or at least, what you heard is untruthful. The devil twists the truth, and denies the Word of God.

The devil has been doing this from the beginning of human history. He does it today. This is why James uses this phrase:

James 5:12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

ABOVE ALL THINGS keep your word. Don’t do as the Pharisees did, who made oaths with intentional loopholes. The Christian is commanded of God to be:

Ephesians 4:15 … speaking the truth in love ..

The Apostle Peter uses the same phrase “above all things” in:

1 Peter 4:8 … above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

We as believers are top speak the truth in love. Our words are to be truthful and honest. If we say something, it should reflect the truth, and be upheld by the Scripture. We are to cling to God’s Word, remembering that Jesus prayed for His Church, saying:

John 17:14-17 (ESV) I have given them Your Word {Father}, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth.

God’s Word – this Bible – is TRUTH. It is WRITTEN TRUTH. It is Wisdom from above. We are to cling to this Word, and trust this Word. We are not to REDEFINE TRUTH, which is what the world has done. Those things which the Bible forbids – lying, adultery, sexual immorality, perversity – the world has redefined as “protecting your boundaries, making love, finding a soul mate, falling in love”. The world says that this is the way to go. The Bible, however, warns us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The Scripture tells us that:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV) … do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

It is certain that the flagrant sinner will not get into God’s Kingdom and, by extension, nor into God’s Heaven. Yet the person who comes to the Lord Jesus Christ for cleansing can be washed, can be cleansed of sin, and can be given an “adopted state” with God our Father. Those who twist God’s Word or maul the truth are destined – not to go to Heaven – but to find themselves in that other place we call “the second death”. The Scripture says:

Revelation 21:7-8 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whore mongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Liars and those who do not speak the truth in love will find themselves in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, a place of eternal separation and torment. Our tongues are to speak the truth with love if our hearts belong to Jesus.

God Always Keeps His Word. Aren’t You Glad?

James 5:13-15 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. 14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

James now asks is three questions and gives us answers that make absolutely no sense if God does not keep His Word.

Word Study: The first question is Is any among you afflicted?. The word rendered afflicted is the Greek κακοπαθέω kakopathéō, {pronounced kak-op-ath-eh’-o} which means “to undergo hardship”. The soldier who faithfully serves his nation often finds himself in hard places. The Apostle Paul told Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:3 … endure hardness {kakopathéō}, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ

We are in a war with the darkness, with the forces of Satan. Jesus said, “If the world hate you, know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18). The Apostle wrote, “Marvel not, my brothers and sisters, if the world hate you” (1 John 3:13). The darkness will always hate the light. Listen Beloved,

If you speak the BIBLICAL truth in love, the world will hate you. Satan does not despise the compromiser – but he does despise the faithful warrior of Christ.

You will be afflicted {kakopathéō}. If you are – and you will be – then let him pray. God is faithful. His Word is faithful. If God’s Word is not faithful, then why pray? But He is faithful, and has promised I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5). God is near. You are near, O LORD” (Psalm 119:150-151). If God was not reliable, then why pray? But God is reliable. He is true to His Word. Though a thousand fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, it will not come near you” (Psalm 91:7). Why is that? Because if I make the Most High my dwelling place, my Refuge, then NO HARM will befall me; no disaster will come near my home” (Psalm 91:9-10).

The second question is,

James 5:13 Is any merry? let him sing psalms

What if you are on a mountaintop? Remember that God is near. We as humans often compartmentalize God. God is like the Faithful Butler Who, when we sense we need Him, we cry out, He appears in our life, fixes what’s wrong, then like a genie in a bottle goes home until we call Him again. This is a foolish and unbiblical concept of God. The Bible says, dear Christian,

1 Corinthians 6:20 (ESV) … you were BOUGHT WITH A PRICE (see also 1 Corinthians 7:23)

God “purchased you with His own Blood” (Acts 20:28). God the Son became a curse for you, that you not be cursed (Galatians 3:13). You were redeemed from damnation and from the darkness of this present world (1 Peter 1:18-19).

We who are Christian belong to God ALL THE TIME. We are in His Presence NOT just in the valley, but also on the mountaintop.

If God is there, we should sing praises to Him while on the mountaintop, and pray to Him, calling on His name whether in the valley or not. When we are told let him sing psalms I see also in this the word Psalms. James was telling the ancient Jew – as well as us today – to turn to the Hebrew Hymnbook. In this wonderful Book – in the center of our Bibles – we see how those in affliction and on the mountaintop magnified God. I have often “prayed the Psalms”, letting the words of the Psalmist run through my eyes, into my spirit, and out of my mouth. That is such a blessing!

The third question asked and answered is:

James 5:14 … Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church

Who are the elders? These are mature believers who teach the Word of God and model Christ to the other believers. The Chief Apostle wrote:

1 Peter 5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

The “elders” are those who both cherish and study the Word of God. If you are not reading and applying the Word of God in your life, you will NEVER become an “elder”. The Bible says in:

Hebrews 5:12-14 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the Word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

The Elders are those believers who are skillful in the Word of Righteousness. They walk with God daily, and have built up a Biblical worldview that dominates their lives. When the suffering Christian calls for the elders of the Church, these believers both heed and do what God has commanded. These two or three obey the Scripture:

James 5:14-15 let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

Why do we anoint … with oil in the name of the Lord”? Because the oil symbolizes both love as well as God the Holy Spirit. When David was anointed King of Israel by Samuel the Bible says the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David” (1 Sam 16:13). Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 10:38; Isaiah 61:1). As Christians, we are anointed by the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20, 27). The oil has no medicinal property, but is symbolic, but something we as believers do because God said to do it. It is a slippery slope when we begin to ignore portions of God’s Word because we do not understand it. As believers we are called to share our brokenness with our fellow believers. We are told:

James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

God Only Hears The Prayers Of The Righteous
(Unless You Are Seeking Salvation)

God loves and cares for all. But to those who are bound in chains of sin, who refuse to repent and cast themselves on the mercy of Jesus, God will not hear these people. Hear the Scripture:

Proverbs 15:29 The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

You find this throughout the Scripture. For instance, Psalm 34:16 states the face of the LORD is against them that do evil. And in Psalm 138:6 we read, Though the LORD be high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly; BUT the PROUD HE KNOWS afar off. Jesus Christ came to save whosoever will. Jesus came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). He told the self righteous Pharisees:

Matthew 9:13 … I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (also Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32).

Jesus Christ died on the Cross of Calvary to make payment for and to cover our sins. But to be saved, we must repent and turn to Him. WE MUST REPENT! To repent is to turn away from sin, and to turn to Jesus and Jesus alone. To repent is to cease following the darkness, and to run to the Master for healing. The Apostle said:

1 Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

Our God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance(2 Peter 3:9). It is God’s desire that as many as will come to Christ be saved. God will sometimes bring affliction on a nation to draw it into repentance. Here James gives us the illustration of Elijah:

James 5:17-18 {Elijah} was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

Elijah was a person with his faults and problems, just like we have. Yet Elijah clung to the Word of God. God used Elijah to bring Israel and her corrupt King Ahab to his knees. Because Elijah trusted and called on God, the Lord used him to bring a large section of Israel back into a right relationship with Him. Something also noteworthy is – though there was a drought in the land, God insured that Elijah had plenty to eat and drink throughout it. God will take care of you!

Let us finish our text:

James 5:19-20 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; 20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

We are, as believers, NEVER to justify sin. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). He which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death. When someone walks in opposition to the will and Word of God, they are courting death – not to mention a multitude of sins. Love demands that we as believers cling to God’s Word, and share faith in Christ as the only solution for sin. May we as God’s Church stay true to His Word. In God’s name, and for His glory we pray. Amen and Amen!

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Resist The Devil, Draw Near To God

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Turn with me in your Bibles to Nehemiah chapter 6.

We’ve been studying how God used Nehemiah – the Cup Bearer (or Butler) to the Persian King Artaxerxes – to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Some of you may have wondered why such a subject would be interesting or applicable to us. If so, you haven’t been paying attention to the news.

Our Federal Government has ignored the waves of illegal immigrants crossing the border into the United States. The Government seems unwilling to either finish building the wall on our southern border, or even to enforce policing of the breach with Immigration Control Enforcement Officers. Texas Governor Greg Abbott got tired of 4000 migrants crossing his border every day, straining his infrastructure. So Governor Abbott began to send bus loads of immigrants to Washington D.C. When the Mayor of New York City Eric Adams slammed Texas for sending illegal immigrants to Washington, D.C., Governor Abbot started sending bus loads of illegal immigrants to New York City.

I’m kind of amused, but also saddened. I’m saddened that conditions in Mexico are so pathetic that it’s citizens are flooding into the United States. But I’m also saddened that our hypocritical politicians, all of whom live in gated communities protected by walls and armed guards, refuse to secure our borders.

Walls are important. The Great Wall of China was built over centuries by China’s Emperors in order to protect their people from attacking hoards. The Berlin Wall (which fell on November 9, 1989) was built by Communism to force it’s citizens to stay in East Berlin. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. is a wall that commemorates some 58,000 Americans who were killed or missing in action during the Vietnam War.

Nehemiah is working on rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. The wall was destroyed by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar over 70 years before, and many of the Israelis were exiled to Babylon. Why did this occur? Because God’s people got away from following God, and began to follow their own gods. As they drifted away from God, God warned them that punishment and trials was coming. Yet Israel refused to listen to the Prophets, the Preachers that God sent to warn and encourage them to repent. So Jerusalem and it’s walls was breached. When God allowed Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to lead in rebuilding the wall, numerous enemies rose up against the work. We saw in each chapter:

Nehemiah 1:10 ‒ Sanballat and Tobiah
Nehemiah 2:19 ‒ Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem
Nehemiah 4:1,3 ‒ Sanballat and Tobiah
Nehemiah 4:7 ‒ Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites

In Chapter Five these enemies disappeared for a while, because internal problems with the builders caused a work stoppage. Nehemiah negotiated a peace and a restoration within the work force, and so the work continued. Dear friend, Satan is persistent. He will use every force and trick he can to cause the work of God’s Kingdom to stall. So it’s no surprise that we see the enemy return.

Nehemiah 6:1-2 Now it came to pass when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;) 2 That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief.

Satan’s First Ploy: Let’s TALK Instead Of DOING

Nehemiah and his work crews have rebuilt the walls, which is an amazing feat. The walls are about 2.4966 miles long, circling the city. They are 39.37 feet tall, and an average of 8.2 feet thick. There are 34 watchtowers and 8 gates – though the doors are not yet on the gate hinges. What is amazing is that

The Book of Nehemiah has no miracles recorded in it at all. The miracle in this Book is that God’s people worked TOGETHER to glorify the Lord, and TOGETHER did an amazing work.

When Sanballat the Governor of Samaria (the Capital of Northern Israel) heard of this feat, he mobilized. Jerusalem is just days from regaining its walls. Jerusalem is the Capital City of Southern Israel. If the Capital is restored, it won’t be long before Judah is restored. Sanballat doesn’t want this, neither does his lieutenant Tobiah. Another enemy, Geshem the Arabian, Geshem was the King of Kedar, a province of Northwest Arabia, and a very powerful politician in the Persian Empire.

They cannot get Nehemiah to stop the building project, so they go to another tactic. They begin to distract rather than outright attack. If the devil’s attacks will not stop the growth of God’s Kingdom, he will use distraction. I have seen so many distractions as a pastor thrown at our Church.

A baby giggles or cries.
An ambulance or fire truck passes the Church.
A wasp or bee enters the room.
Speakers crackle or buzz annoyingly.
At 73 degrees everyone some are freezing.
At 74 degrees others are burning up.

The devil loves creating distractions. His distractions often look perfectly innocent on the surface. Sanballat and his crew suggest to Nehemiah:

Nehemiah 6:2 Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono…

Let’s just get together and talk! This sounds innocent. But if Nehemiah goes to the plain of Ono”, he will have to go 27 miles northwest of Jerusalem. Had Nehemiah accepted this invitation, he would have been gone from Jerusalem about 2 days. Nehemiah would have also exposed himself to being kidnapped. The plain of Ono is kind of a “no man’s land” between Judah and Samaria. But Nehemiah said:

Nehemiah 6:2 But they thought to do me mischief.

Word Study: The word translated mischief is the Hebrewרַע raʻ, {pronounced rah}, which means “bad, evil, to bring misery or calamity, to be malignant”. British Evangelist Alan Redpath said:

Whether you be a pastor or a teacher or evangelist or Sunday school leader, or whatever your position may be in Christian leadership, let me say that there will always be those who are friendly to your face, but plan your downfall behind your back. Beware of the fawning, flattering Christian who is always fluttering around you, and who behind your back will be the first to rejoice when you go down.”

Nehemiah was a praying man. The Journal of Applied Christian Leadership notes:

Nehemiah did not end his prayers after receiving his vision for the restored future of Jerusalem. Rather, he continued to ask God for guidance and help throughout the journey. Nehemiah received his power through God, the Source of all power and might. The entire restructuring of Jerusalem was enveloped in the power of prayer, as evidenced in how often prayers are lifted up within the relatively short book of Nehemiah. How many prayers are mentioned? Twelve”.

Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”. God speaks to His people. We are constantly, as His Children, on God’s mind. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 139:17-18 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! 18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

God never leaves the side of His Children. He is the Only Parent Who can make such a claim. Thus Nehemiah relied on God throughout every phase of the work he was doing. The Scripture says:

1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV) … For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

Christians today have a problem with discernment because they do not pursue a relationship with God. We too often place much emphasis on human leaders, and little on the Greatest Leader Ever, the Lord our God. If you never (or rarely) pray, if you never (or rarely) meditate on God’s Word, then you will never grow as you should in Christ. The writer of Hebrews wrote to such Carnal Christians,

Hebrews 5:11-14 (ESV) About {Jesus} we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Faith is a spiritual muscle that only grows when we feed it the Word of God, and exercise it by speaking to God and doing as He says. If you will not DO the Word, you will not be BLESSED in life.
(Matthew 7:26-27)

How did Nehemiah respond to these fake invitations?

Nehemiah 6:3-4 And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? 4 Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.

Nehemiah refused to go himself, though he sent messengers unto them. His message was simple. He said, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?. Sanballat and Satan did not stop here, though. Nehemiah said they sent unto me four times after this sort. I finds that interesting, that they would send for Nehemiah four times. In the Scripture, four is the number of resting in God. David the Shepherd carried five smooth stones onto the battlefield to fight Goliath. After using only one, four stones rested in his pouch. When you know you are doing God’s Work, don’t look back, don’t look left or right. Jesus said:

Luke 9:62 … No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

God has said,

Deuteronomy 33:12 (ESV) The beloved of the Lord dwells in safety. The High God surrounds him all day long, and dwells between his shoulders.”

Nehemiah was focused on pleasing God. He kept on working. But Beloved, Satan is not so easily discouraged.

Satan’s Second Ploy Is To Slander And Spread False Rumors

Nehemiah 6:5-7 Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand; 6 Wherein was written, It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words. 7 And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together.

Illustrate: Back in the days when we had to “lick” postage stamps, the Post Office decided to put a prominent politician’s picture on a stamp. Sadly, few people bought that stamp, so it was discontinued. The Postal Service polled people to find out why no one wanted that stamp. The consensus was summed up by one old man. He simply said,

If I bought those stamps, I wouldn’t know which side to spit on!”

Of course, I don’t apply this to my brother Jerry. He’s a good Christian, and we need more genuine Christian politicians. Stamps have changed over the years. But one thing that hasn’t changed is that letters sent through the mail are generally sealed, not open. And yet we read:

Nehemiah 6:5 Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand…

This letter was sent OPEN because Sanballat wanted the public to know the contents. Sanballat is trying to start a false rumor. The rumor is:

Nehemiah 6:6 It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words

Notice how the slander is worded. It is reported among the heathen. It is common knowledge among all the nations around you what you and the Jews are doing. When the devil wants to start a lie, he says “But EVERYBODY’S doing it”, or “EVERYBODY knows”. To strengthen the lie, he says and Gashmu saith it. Who is Gashmu. This is the Arabic or Familiar form of the name Geshem (called “the Arabian”). What Sanballat is saying is, “Everyone knows what you are doing. My good buddy Gashmu (Geshem), the King of East Arabia, has told me all about it”. Sending this as an open letter was intended to frighten Nehemiah and the workers. If the King of Persia, Artaxerxes hears this, he might send a military force to destroy Nehemiah and his workers.

Nehemiah, you’d better DO something!

This is how the devil operates. If he can get us to STOP relying on God, and START defending ourselves, it won’t be long before the Kingdom work is stalled forever.

To make this worse, Sanballat says that Nehemiah is secretly plotting to be their king. To insure this happens, Sanballat claims that Nehemiah hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah” (vs 7). Nehemiah, won’t you come together and talk with us so we can help you avert a disaster … Artaxerxes surely knows!

Beloved, when Satan slanders you (and he will if you follow Jesus), ask yourself, “Is it true?” If it isn’t true, rather than run about like a chicken with your head cut off, do as Nehemiah did. We read:

Nehemiah 6:8 Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart.

Nehemiah didn’t stop what he was doing to entertain his enemies. Once more he SENT messengers. He told them, in effect, “What you’re saying is a made up lie. It’s slander. You invented it out of your own evil hearts”. The Bible tells us that God despises those who slander others. The Bible says:

Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

The Enduring Word Commentary notes:

Nehemiah did not mount an elaborate defense, trying to prove Sanballat wrong point by point. He wasn’t going to waste his time. You don’t satisfy men like Sanballat with facts, explanations, and evidence. You satisfy them by giving in to their demands, and Nehemiah refused to do this.”

Illustrate: I’m reminded of an “Andy Griffith Show” where Barney was running for Sheriff against Andy. Barney got upset with Andy, and hired a man with a truck and a loud speaker to go through Mayberry shouting, “Vote for Barney. Barney Fife for Sheriff”. At the Town Hall meeting where Andy and Barney got up to debate one another, Barney took the stand he held up a briefcase and said, “Ladies and gentlemen… I have here documented 76 cases of malfeasance in the sheriff’s office”. When Andy got to the speaker’s stand, he was shocked. He said … “seventy six cases of malfeasance?” Andy didn’t defend himself. He admitted that people were parking in the wrong places, and jaywalking, and that he had no emergency equipment to speak of. He admitted that he didn’t wear a gun. But Andy said, “I’ve been a Sheriff here for a long time. You’re either satisfied with me, or you’re … you’re not. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow”. When Andy sat down, Barney stood up, and said, “I was satisfied with Mr. Taylor’s answers. And, well, I’m voting for Andy”.

Illustrate: The worst thing you can do when slandered for doing God’s work is to run about trying to make your enemies happy. President Abraham Lincoln was once asked, “Aren’t you going to answer all these allegations concerning the war effort?” Lincoln replied, “If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what’s said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”

After telling Sanballat and his enemies that they were making up lies, Nehemiah did the best thing every Christian can do when slandered:

Nehemiah 6:9 For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.

Nehemiah admitted his fear, and the fear of his fellow workers. But he prayed to God, saying Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands. When you are slandered, cast it upon the Lord – and get back to work. You can’t

Satan’s Third Ploy Is Outright Intimidation

Nehemiah 6:10 Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who was shut up; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us shut the doors of the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee.

Now Satan turns to using religion to destroy the work of God. Satan’s favorite weapon is religion. When our Lord Jesus walked this earth, His greatest opponents were not atheists, nor drunkards, nor adulterers, nor even Gentile rulers. Pilate tried to free Jesus. No, Jesus’ greatest enemies were the self righteous religious crowd, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes. Jesus’ greatest enemies were Jews who should have rejoiced in His appearing. But this is what Satan does. He loves to use false faith and vain religion.

Shemaiah is well known by Nehemiah, as Nehemiah relates his lineage. Shemaiah tells Nehemiah that God gave him a prophecy (you’ll see this shortly) that Nehemiah was going to be assassinated. Shemaiah implies that God told him to tell Nehemiah to hide in the Temple. Now there’s no way you can hide in the Temple … unless you go into the area where only the priests are allowed. When God had the Temple built, He had them make “Courts” or meeting places for the Gentiles, the women, the men, and the priests. If Nehemiah hid in the first three courts, he could have easily been found. But if he went into the Court of the Priests (where the altar was) he could have hidden. But Nehemiah wasn’t fooled! He knew from God’s Word that the Court of the Priests was reserved unto the priests. In

2 Chronicles 26, King Uzziah – who was not a priest – went into the temple, and God instantly struck him with leprosy.

When God gave a rule, He expected it to be obeyed – or else! Shemaiah is like many in the mainstream churches who endorse homosexuality, transgenderism, and non-biblical marriage. The Mosaic Law declared that only God’s anointed Priests could enter the holy and the most holy places in the Temple (see Numbers 1:51; 3:10; 18:7). Had Nehemiah somehow broken one of God’s Laws he could have sought refuge at the brazen altar in the Temple courtyard (see Exodus 21:13-14; 1 Kings. 1:50-53). But Nehemiah knew two things. First, he had not violated God’s Law. Second, Nehemiah knew that God had not suspended the rules that He gave Israel. In fact, the reason Israel is in bondage NOW is because they skirted and disobeyed the rules that God clearly laid out for them. Nehemiah replies:

Nehemiah 6:11-12 And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in. 12 And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.

When Nehemiah decided to do the right thing, and once more resist Satan, it was revealed to him that this false prophet was hired by Tobiah and Sanballat. Nehemiah said,

Nehemiah 6:13 Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me.

The Bible says,

James 4:7 (ESV) Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Nehemiah kept himself close to God by prayer. He was familiar with the Word of God. By being singularly focused on glorifying God and keeping to his mission, Nehemiah foiled the enemy at every turn. Nehemiah prays:

Nehemiah 6:14 My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear.

Once the wall was completed (in 52 days – see verse 15) Nehemiah uncovered an internal conspiracy with the nobles of Judah. They secretly plotted with Tobiah to overthrow Nehemiah. But as the scripture says,

Numbers 32:23 (ESV) … be sure your sin will find you out.

Once the wall was complete, it totally demoralized Nehemiah’s enemies (both open and secret), while magnifying the Kingdom of God. Nehemiah was able to brave ridicule, threats, discouragement, internal conspiracies, trickery and rumor mongering by prayer, perseverance, and prioritizing God’s glory. May we all be as faithful to our Lord. May God the Holy Spirit encourage you by this, His Word, to help rebuild the wall of righteousness in our nation. For Christ’s glory, may others yet be won to Jesus. Amen and amen.

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What Do I Do Until The Lord Comes?

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Please turn with me in your Bibles to James Chapter 5. James is an imminently practical Book. This Book points out how the saved are to live out their faiths while in this world. We start tonight with:

James 5:7-8 Be patient {makrothyméō} therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient {makrothyméō}; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

Be Patient In Trials. Work Faithfully Looking Toward The Lord.

Word Study: When the Scripture repeats something twice in a short space, it is introducing a new section to study. Here we see Be patientemphasized in just a few verses. This is the Greek μακροθυμέω makrothyméō, {pronounced mak-roth-oo-meh’-o}, which is a compound word comprised of μακρός (to be very long) and θυμός (in the Spirit). Together the word means to be very long in the Spirit {and not lose heart}. The word is used TWICE in verse 7, ONCE in verse 8, and ONCE in verse 10:

James 5:10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience {makrothyméō}.

The Bible is not talking about human patience, which often wears thin. This type of patience is one aspect of the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT. We read:

Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV) … the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience {makrothyméō}, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

It is easy to become impatient in our faith, to sometimes say “I’ve got to DO something”, and then to mess everything up. This is the nature of humanity. We want things right away, quickly, now. We fill ourselves up with ourselves, then wonder why we fail. Beloved, we are to minimize self, and be filled with the Holy Spirit of God. It is the Spirit that empowers. It is the Spirit that gives us holy patience.

When God called Abraham (then called Abram) to follow Him at age 75, God promised to give Abraham and Sarah a child of their own, and through that child to bless the entire world (Genesis 12:1-3).

In order for Abram (high father) to become Abraham (father of many), he would have to learn to minimize his self and let God fill him with the Holy Spirit.

Abraham had to follow God patiently for twenty-five years until he received that son. “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). God will always keep His Word, BUT only when it is best for us. And Beloved, God does not ask us our opinion on the matter. He keeps His own Counsel. The wisest King Who ever lived was Solomon. Solomon said of God’s agenda on this earth:

Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:) 17 Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labor to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

Solomon said, “I tried to understand the work of God – but I couldn’t understand it”. This is so very true. So often we see those we consider “good” die young, while the wicked seem to prosper. Pastor Mark Talbot wrote:

In this fallen world, righteousness is not always rewarded, and wickedness doesn’t always receive the punishment it deserves: {“There is a vanity that takes place on the earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous” (Ecclesiastes 8:14; 7:15)”

There are so many days that I look at our world and cry out to God, “Lord, why won’t You come now?” Those who are saved all feel this same anguish. The Apostle ended the Scripture Canon with:

Revelation 22:20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

We desire that Jesus come right now! And yet, this is not what is best. There are souls who need to meet Jesus. There is Kingdom Work that we – as His children – must do. And yet, we, with the Apostle, cry out:

1 Corinthians 16:22 If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.

Word Study: The word Anathema means “to be cursed or devoted to evil”. The word Maranatha means “Come quickly Lord!”. I have never known a Christian who loved Jesus that did not desire He come right now. On the very day that Jesus ascended into Heaven, promising to return, just before His ascent the disciples asked Him:

Acts 1:6 …. Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

They were asking when Jesus was going to establish His Millennial Reign on this earth. Our Lord replied:

Acts 1:7-8 … It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Only God knows when Jesus is returning. Only God understands when the best time is for evil to be eradicated, and for Christ to sit His Throne in Jerusalem. Jesus told His Disciples, in essence, “Don’t trouble yourselves over this. Know I am returning … but work for God’s Kingdom in the Spirit until I return”. We should follow the pattern that King David portrayed as he waited to be crowned. David, while yet a shepherd, was called into the presence of the Prophet Samuel. After God rejected all of Jesse’s sons as King of Israel, Jesse said:

1 Samuel 16:11 (NIV) “There is still the youngest …. but he is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

David comes in from the field, and the Lord said:

“Rise and anoint him; he is the one”

Did David ascend the throne? No. David could not ascend to the throne until he learned to wait on God. David had to learn to be filled with the Spirit, and not himself.

David faithfully served the present King Saul, though Saul often tried to kill him. When Saul died, Israel went through a terrible civil war for around seven years. The Bible says that “David inquired of the Lord” (2 Samuel 2:1), and followed whatever direction God the Holy Spirit sent him. For the second time we read:

2 Samuel 2:4 the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.

But there’s a problem. Though Saul is dead, he had a son called Ish-bosheth (which means, “Man of Shame”). The House of Judah followed David, but the rest of Israel followed Ish-bosheth. Two of the leaders in Ish-bosheth’s army – Rechab and Baanah his brother – decided to assassinate their King. They came into his home at night and, while he was in bed, killed him, and cut off his head. Carrying it to David, they said:

2 Samuel 4:8 (ESV) “Here is the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life. The Lord has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring.”

David would have none of it. He had both men executed, saying:

2 Samuel 4:11 (ESV) “{you} wicked men have killed a righteous man in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood at your hand and destroy you from the earth?”

David was willing to wait on the Lord. God had promised he would be king – but David would not circumvent the Will of God by forcing the fulfillment of God’s Word. This is what God would have us to do.

James 5:8 Be ye also patient {makrothyméō}; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

The Be ye also reminds us to look to the fathers of our faith, to the Prophets and holy people who went before.

Moses parted the Red Sea, then allowed emotion to take hold of his faith, and so he lost the Promised Land.

Joshua remained vigilant in following the Lord, and the Lord used him to conquer that same Promised Land.

Daniel kept his eyes on Jesus, though surrounded by lions.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked through fire with Jesus.

Jeremiah kept preaching, though none would listen.

Noah preached salvation, though only his family was saved.

John the Baptist loved God so much that he lost his head.

Let us fill our lives with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Let us not get impatient. Let us take hold of our hearts, our feelings. We are not to “follow your heart”, for our hearts are often foolish. Instead we are to follow our God, and the example our forefathers (and mothers) gave to us. We are to look to His Word, and trust in Him. While we wait on the Lord, we may question and ask our Father why. But we are also to be faithful in following Him. The Psalmist wrote:

Psalm 90:13-17 (ESV) Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. 16 Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!

As Poet William Cowper (1731-1800) wrote:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm”.

While Working For God, Remember You Are NOT

We read,

James 5:9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.

A Church is a collection of broken people, all saved by Grace, all seeking to honor and serve the Lord. We are to work together, understanding that those around us – ourselves included – are apt to make mistakes and errors in judgment. We are told to Grudge not, that is,

Don’t Take Mistakes – Yours or Others – Personally!

Neal Foard, a YouTube motivational speaker I love to listen to, told a story where he chose to do the wrong thing and lived to regret it. I’m not going to tell the whole story, but Neal said that his mistake haunted him for years. Several years after the incident he came across the young man he mistreated, and confessed his error, seeking forgiveness. The man never held a grudge against Neal, but told him simply:

Forget the mistake. Learn the lesson.”

I love that! We are all broken. We are therefore to approach errors in life as learning opportunities. When you forgive what someone erroneously did to you whether they ask you to or not, you are being like Jesus. And the more like Jesus you are, they less like YOU you are. And that’s a good thing!

Jesus warned us that – if we would not forgive trespasses – then God will not forgive OUR trespasses. He warned …

Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV) For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

We are not called of God to judge others. We are not the boss of others. God is. We share scripture, and judge our own spiritual walks. If you make the Pharisee mistake of going around judging others, all you will end up doing is shortchanging yourself. The Scripture says if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31). The problem with judging others is that it often blinds us to our own problems. Jesus put it this way:

Matthew 7:3-5 (CSB) Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.

We are to examine our own lives very carefully first – then the lives of others. When we read behold, the judge standeth before the door, I am reminded of something very similar that God told Cain before he killed his brother Abel. God told Cain to repent, and do the right thing. God told Cain:

Genesis 4:6-7 (CSB) … “Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent? 7 If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

Cain did not repent, but allowed sinfulness and a judgmental attitude rule him until he killed his brother Abel. Let’s not go down the same horrid path!

Be Patient In Prayer And Worship.
Look To God And Your Fellow Believers.

James 5:10-11 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. 11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

When we go through suffering (and in this life we will suffer), we are to be “long Spirited”, following the examples of those Saints who went before us. Here the Bible speaks of the oldest Scriptures in the Bible, the Book of Job. Though Job suffered terribly, losing his entire family (minus a shrewish wife who made him miserable), Job trusted in the Lord. The Bible says:

Job 1:20-22 Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshiped, 21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. 22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Job had a loving and a fearful relationship with God His Savior. Job knew the difference between “Giving up and Letting go”. Under the greatest of suffering the Bible says that Job:

Job 1:20 Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshiped

Job humbled himself before God. He fell down upon the ground, and worshiped. Job knew Who his Master was. Job worshiped not himself, but the Lord. Job worshiped and honored God. Elijah prayed:

James 5:17-18 {Elijah} was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

We know very little about one of the greatest Prophets who ever lived, a man known simply as Elijah the Tishbite. The King over Israel at that time was a wicked man named Ahab the son of Omri. Ahab turned away from the God of Israel, and marrying a priestess of Baal called Jezebel, “went and served Baal, and worshiped him. The Bible says:

1 King 16:33 … Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.

It was in the midst of this terrible wickedness that God raises up Elijah. We live in a wicked day in America. Though Roe vs Wade has been overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States {sending the matter of abortion back to the states, which is where it should have been in the first place}, evil has become entrenched in our national consciousness. A recent article in Breakpoint called “What Abortion Built” notes that:

Legalized abortion normalized promiscuity, promoted fatherlessness, and secured a view of children so bereft of humanity that we won’t even call them children anymore. … In her book Rethinking Sex, Washington Post columnist Christine Emba wrote …

As contraception has become more mainstream and the risks of sex more diffuse… saying no can feel like less of an option for women: after all, what’s your excuse?” In other words, once abortion was legally on the table, it gave us leave to deconstruct sex to nothing more than a play for individual pleasure. That fundamental lie changed our worldview and thus our behavior.”

Elijah lived in a horribly wicked world, and so do we. This world has always been horribly wicked. Yet God can use Elijah, just as He can use us, to change this world. Elijah stood up against the “popular” opinion, and, following God’s direction, prayed a drought on a wicked king and his kingdom. God answered Elijah’s prayers. Now, was Elijah some type of “Super Believer”? No. We are told that {Elijah} was a man subject to like passions as we are. Elijah was as broken as we are broken. But Elijah relied on Almighty God, and called on Him to bring drought into the land. My commentary states:

God used Elijah to accomplish His own will and agenda. Elijah was His instrument. Prayer does not move a reluctant God, but channels His will and purposes through His children.

As God used Elijah to effect a change in that nation, God can use us who are His children to effect a change. Let us be the LIGHT that God wants us to be. Let us SHINE for Jesus until He calls us home. Make a decision each morning that you will make a difference by filling yourselves with the Holy Spirit, for the glory of Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen and Amen!

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What Is The G.O.A.L. Of Our Faith?

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Please turn with me in your Bibles to James chapter 4 verse 17. As you are turning there, I want to start with this question: “What Is The G.O.A.L. Of Our Faith”? As Christians our faith is often described as a “race”. We are to “Run, that you might obtain” (1 Corinthians 9:24). We are commanded “run with patience the race set before us, looking unto Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2). If we are to run, what is the GOAL we are striving toward?

To Even ENTER The Race, You Must Have AGospel Salvation

James 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

The Christian is called to do good. At the beginning of every day we are to pray, “Father, let me do good so as to please you and honor Jesus today”. At the end of every day we are to look back over the day, and ask ourselves “What good did I do to honor my Lord today?”

I’m not talking about “Social Justice” – though this is the “in thing” today. I’m talking about doing good so as to honor the One Who saved you. We are not to just mark time and march in place, but we are to advance the Gospel Kingdom in any way we can. The Bible commands us to:

Ephesians 5:16 Redeeming the time, for the days are evil

You – dear Christian – were given life to bring light into this dark world (see Colossians 4:5). If you are SAVED, you are SAVED by Grace – but with a purpose. We are told in Ephesians 2:8-9:

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by Grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, NOT OF WORKS, lest anyone should boast.

We are here to celebrate our SALVATION. As you have been told many times, SALVATION is the gift of God, NOT OF WORKS, lest anyone should boast. You can neither earn nor deserve SALVATION.

SALVATION is what Jesus Christ purchased for you on Calvary.

A person is saved by “repenting”, turning away from being their own god and turning to the True God found only in Christ. The Scripture declares:

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is … long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

God wants to save whosoever will. Our favorite and most loved Scripture – John 3:16 – states that God so loved THE WORLD that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should NOT PERISH, but have EVERLASTING LIFE. Jesus Christ died for all. We cannot earn nor deserve His salvation. But when we bring our broken lives to Him, Jesus saves us. This is Ephesians 2:8-9. However, in the very next verse we are told:

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus UNTO GOOD WORKS, which GOD HATH BEFORE ORDAINED that we should walk in them.

Word Study: Those SAVED are SANCTIFIED. Those SAVED are SPIRIT INDWELT. God lives in you, and has given you His Word and, through that Word, His Will. What does it mean to be “sanctified”? This is the Greek ἁγιασμός hagiasmós, {pronounced hag-ee-as-mos’}, which means

the process of cleansing, purifying, consecrating a saved person
to make them more like Jesus”.

SANCTIFICATION follows SALVATION. You cannot have one without the other. The Scripture says:

Hebrews 2:10-11 (ESV) … it was fitting that {God}, for Whom and by Whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Source. That is why {Jesus} is not ashamed to call them brothers

Once SAVED, God adopts you into the family of God and begins to make you more like Jesus, the Son of God. The Son of God died and rose again to make MORE SONS AND DAUGHTERS of God. Sanctification is a process that God will not stop until you reach your ultimate destination.

1 Thessalonians 4:3 … this is the will of God, even your sanctification

1 Thessalonians 4:4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel {your body} in sanctification and honor;

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

Sanctification is a daily process where God the Holy Spirit takes the willing candidate and, through application of the Scripture and doing of the truth, makes that person more and more like Jesus Christ. You cannot be saved and NOT sanctified.

The Book of James is focused on SANCTIFICATION, on how God makes you more like Jesus.

Only God And His Scripture Sanctifies The Saved

The Christian is in a race to do good, and God is the judge. Naturally we read:

James 4:11-12 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?

The Christian is called to run his or her race – looking unto Jesus. Always looking unto Jesus, because only Jesus is the Judge.

Illustrate: A lot of you love to sit at home and watch football, baseball, or basketball, or maybe NASCAR on the television. When watching these sports we often yell at the television, calling the referee “blind and stupid”, or adding our two cents worth. My wife and I often watch cooking competitions in a show called “Chopped”, and I’ll often mock contestants for using too little or too much of the basket ingregients. Have you ever noticed when you watch these shows that there’s a phone number at the bottom of the screen where you can call in and register YOUR opinion with the judges? No? You’ve never seen that? Guess what, you never will.

No one cares about your opinion. The judge is the judge.

So it is with the Christian. When God called you to salvation through His Gospel, you became His “workmanship”, created to “do good works”. God began to work on your life. How does God do this? He does it through the Word of God, the Scripture. Jesus prayed for His Church in

John 17:17 Sanctify them (the Church) in the truth; Your Word (O God) is truth.

The Word of God, the Scripture we read every week is the standard of truth. It is absolutely certain that keeping the Law cannot save a person.

The LAW sets the standard by which the Judge works.

The Law does not save, but it does set the standard. God said in …

Romans 3:19-20 (ESV) Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The Law CANNOT save, but it does set a standard. For instance:

Only God has the right to determine what is right and wrong, good and evil. And God has given us very clear direction insofar as to what is sin – even in the New Testament. For instance,

1 Corinthians 6:9 (ESV) … do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

These things that are forbidden are NOT a part of our race. Further, we read:

Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV) … the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The Law cannot save – but it can teach us that we need to be saved (Galatians 3:24-26). But once we are saved, we live in accordance with God’s Law. We do not – as people saved under the New Covenant – have to sacrifice animals nor keep the special feasts that God gave to Israel. We are still to be doers of the Law. Though the Law could not save me, once I was saved I am to be obedient to my God, to my Jesus.

The “Royal Law” of the Family of God is that
we as Christians LOVE.

Matthew 22:37-40 Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Those who are sons and daughters of God are to love God supremely, to love God with our ALL. But we are also called to love my neighbor AS I love myself. In fact, Jesus took this even farther by saying:

John 13:34 (ESV) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

Word Study: We are to love our fellow Christians with the same sacrificial love that our Lord Jesus showed us. We are to (as James 4:11 says) Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law. Every Christian is a work in progress. I am not to Speak evilto my fellow Christian. The phrase Speak evil is the Greek καταλαλέω katalaléō, {pronounced kat-al-al-eh’-o}, which actually means to speak in opposition to, to slander, to speak against”.

If a brother or sister violates the “rule” of the Kingdom as set forth in the Scripture, we should tell them about it. But our OPINION is not warranted nor needed – God is the sole Judge.

James 4:12 There is one Lawgiver, Who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?

All Truths Come From The Written Word Of God

James just told us not to judge. And yet, just a few verses away, we see these harsh words:

James 5:1-6 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth eaten. 3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. 4 Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. 5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. 6 Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.

James is speaking very harshly to the rich. Why? Because the ones he is addressing have hired laborers and yet not paid them, holding back a fair wage. They have enjoyed the very best life that God in Grace has allowed them, have earned billions of dollars in their lifetimes, but have never used what they have to love others. On the contrary, they robbed their own workers, and built their riches on the tombs of the laborer. James tells these unloving people:

James 5:1 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you

The rich people that James is indicting has violated the three Laws that the Christian lives by. The rich are not loving God with ALL their heart, mind, soul, and strength. These rich people are in love with their riches, not their God. Further, they are not treating their workers the way that they themselves would like to be treated. And as for following Jesus’ command to “love one another, as I have loved you” – it is absolutely non-existent!

James tells these people that they will weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. What does this mean? Jesus often spoke of those who refused to love their neighbor being …

Matthew 8:12 … thrown into outer darkness. In that place will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Hell is where those with misplaced love go. If YOU are the center of your universe, and YOU live your life just to please YOU, our Lord Jesus has a place already set for you in eternity. It is NOT a mansion (John 14:2), nor a pleasure palace. Jesus described it as:

Matthew 13:50 … the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30). Those who go to that place called HELL shall see a certain rich man there “crying out for a drop of water, saying ‘for I am in anguish in this flame’ (Luke 16:34). There is a hell, and this is where the selfish go. The abusers, the racists, the hateful, the greedy, those who would make their riches on the bones of their neighbor – they shall be in that place.

But not so the Christian. The Christian is saved by the Blood of Christ to be like Christ. Our destination is Heaven. Our calling is to bring the Light of God to this present darkness.

We who are saved are to …

1 John 1:7 (ESV) … walk in the light, as {God} is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

We are not to be JUDGES (for we are unworthy to judge), but as lovers of God to be DOERS of the Law of God.

Saved People Are To Live So As To Glorify God

James 4:13-16 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: [14] Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. [15] For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. [16] But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.

There is nothing wrong with making plans for your life. The Bible tells us to:

Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.

Jesus recognized that planning ahead is a good thing. Jesus tied planning ahead to salvation in:

Luke 14:28-33 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

It is not a bad thing to plan. BUT it is a bad thing
to plan WITHOUT THE LORD.

Those that James is speaking of say To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain. Notice what’s missing. IT IS THE LORD. God is no where in their plans for the future. The Bible is very clear that:

Proverbs 16:3 (ESV) Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

Your SALVATION is a gift from God, and YOU now belong to the Lord. You are bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23). If you are a Christian, you are God’s Workmanship. You are God’s Property. You are God’s Son or Daughter. God is with you. God the Holy Spirit INDWELLS you. The Scripture says:

1 Corinthians 3:16 (ESV) Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

Ezekiel 36:27 (ESV) I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules..

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

If the Scripture is true – and it is – then every Christian should make their plans with God in mind. We are not to live our lives like the rich farmer who never thought of God. You remember him? Jesus said:

Luke 12:16-21 The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: [17] And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? [18] And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. [19] And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. [20] But God said unto him, THOU FOOL, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? [21] So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

How foolish it is for anyone to live without the Presence of God in their lives. In this parable, God called the man THOU FOOL. The word FOOL is a word reserved in the Bible for those who live their lives without God. The Scripture says:

Psalms 14:1 The FOOL hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

What does God say about our present lives?

James 4:14 … For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away

Our lives are like a vapor. We do not know when the Lord will call us home. Every day we live is a gift from God. We should honor God in our lives – honor Him by striving to be more like Jesus. We should remember the words of Scripture:

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do ALL to the glory of God.

Let us, as God’s children, magnify the life of Christ in our lives. The Scripture says:

Colossians 3:1-4 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. [2] SET YOUR AFFECTION ON THINGS ABOVE, not on things on the earth. [3] For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. [4] When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

Let us therefore (Romans 13:12) “.. cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light”.

Let us therefore (Romans 14:19) “… follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.”

Let us therefore (Hebrews 4:16) “… come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Love demands that we do good, reflecting the light of Christ from our lives into the world we serve. Let us live for Jesus daily, knowing that at any time I can be carried out of this life and into glory. We who belong to Jesus are to do good. We are to plan our lives with the glory of God in mind. We are to live each day knowing that tomorrow on this earth is not promised. We will ONE DAY stand before Jesus. Let’s stand with Jesus NOW.

May God use this message to grow His Church, and glorify His Kingdom. Amen and Amen!

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Keeping The Water Out Of The Boat

Photo by David Dibert: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-sinking-watercraft-in-the-sea-8017037/

Please turn with me in your Bibles to Nehemiah chapter 5. There is trouble in the camp, and Nehemiah must deal with it. Troubles will come to us all. Jesus said:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world … (John 16:33, NIV)

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. … (John 15:18)

The Kingdom of God is to be God’s “lighthouse”. You are the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). The darkness has no use for the light. It had no use for Jesus, and has no use for us.

It is not water outside the ship that sinks the “Good Old Gospel Ship”. It is water IN the ship – trouble from within – that can destroy God’s earthly Kingdom. The problem that is most destructive to God’s People is when trouble comes – not from the outside – but from the inside.

Let’s take a look at how Nehemiah and the people dealt with this problem so they could get back to the business of rebuilding the wall.

Nehemiah 5:1-6 And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews. 2 For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live. 3 Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth. 4 There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards. 5 Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards. 6 And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.

The Water In The Boat Is When We Make Ourselves The Mission

Our mission as God’s Kingdom – people redeemed by the Lord Jesus – is to glorify God and advance the Gospel throughout our society. We are to be light in the midst of this current darkness. When we put ourselves first, and God’s mission second, there is a breach in the wall. How do we fix the breach? Nehemiah shows us how.

Among those who volunteered to help rebuild the wall, there were a number of poor and middle class people. But there were also nobles, people who had money and had food in plenty. We saw these “nobles” back in chapter 3:

Nehemiah 3:5 (ESV) … the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.

These nobles felt that they were too good to “stoop to serve their Lord”. This was not their greatest sin.

The nobles were doing something even worst. The bulk of the people who voluntarily worked with Nehemiah were lower to lower middle class. They had large families to care for. We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live” (verse 2). Parents who love their children will feed their children. Some people had access to small plots of land where they raised corn and other crop for their sustenance. But what of those who had no land, or who were poor farmers? They went to the nobles – those who had much – and borrowed money from them.

Nehemiah 5:3 … We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.

Word Study: The word translated “dearth” is the Hebrew רָעָב râʻâb, {pronounced raw-awb’}, which means “a famine”. This word was used in Genesis 41:27 when God gave the Pharaoh a vision that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of râʻâb. When King Solomon dedicated the now destroyed Temple to God, at that dedication ceremony he prayed:

1 Kings 8:23, 37-40 LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart: … 37 If there be in the land famine {râʻâb}, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpillar; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be; 38 What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house: {the Temple} 39 Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;) 40 That they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers.

As Solomon prayed over the newly built Temple, he knew that there are times when God allows famine {{râʻâb}} and suffering to come upon His people. Solomon prayed and asked God that – when God’s people were in trouble – if they UNITED prayed facing the Temple in honor of God – that God would bless them. It is Solomon’s prayer that causes many Orthodox Jews to pray – even today – facing Jerusalem, where the Temple used to be.

Trials are sent by God to His Kingdom People to grow them, and to teach them to have faith in God’s Resources, not in their own resources. Trials are sent to God’s Kingdom People to learn how to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ {which is love – my paraphrase}” (Galatians 6:2).

God Allows Suffering To Grow Us.
We Are HIS Workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)

Suffering is an opportunity to try out and exercise your faith in God. Faith is so very important to the Christian walk. “Without faith it is impossible to please {God}. Faith is to come to God believing that He IS, that is, He exists. Faith is to come to God believing that the God Who exists is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6, my paraphrase). The Bible says:

1 Peter 1:6-7 Wherein {suffering} ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

Those who are helping Nehemiah rebuild the wall are fully committed to the work. They have mortgaged {their} lands, vineyards, and houses. Not only this, they

Nehemiah 5:4 … borrowed money for the king’s tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards.

Word Study: The word rendered “tribute” is the Hebrew מִדָּה middâh, {pronounced mid-daw’}, which means “a measure, a portion”. This is a reference to their taxes. Though King Artaxerxes had allowed Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem with supplies to rebuild the walls, the King did NOT rescind the taxes that the residents of that land had to pay. Israel was a conquered nation, and had to pay tax to Artaxerxes. The famine had made it hard to raise enough food for their people, much less to pay taxes. Guess what? Artaxerxes didn’t care. They would pay their taxes, or suffer the consequences. So the people had to “borrow money” to both pay their taxes as well as feed their families.

Nehemiah 5:5 Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.

Who was “bringing Jews into bondage”? Other Jews. Who was taking advantage of God’s people? God’s Kingdom people!

This was not something the conquerors were doing, but the rich Jews who remained in the land. It was not Biblically wrong for Jews to lend money to Jews. It was, however, wrong to lend money so as to MAKE MONEY off of the suffering of your fellow Jew. The Lord said:

Exodus 22:25 (ESV) If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him.

Leviticus 25:35-36 (ESV) If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you.

The rich Jews – the Nobles – were not only NOT working, but they were taking advantage of their suffering Jewish neighbors.

Since the poor Jews had only lands and children to call their own, the rich Nobles were requiring that they give them their children and their lands as “surety” – what we today call “collateral” on the loans. We read:

Nehemiah 5:5 … we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already

Their children were brought into bondage, that is, were made slaves to the nobles. The Law of God allowed a person to sell themselves as servants (Bondservants, see Exodus 21:2-6), but NOT AS A SLAVE. A servant was to be treated with respect, and was only required to stay in servitude for a fixed period of SIX YEARS. God told Israel:

Leviticus 25:39-43 (ESV) If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: 40 he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. 41 Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers. 42 For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. 43 You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God.

Every person saved and brought into the Family of God belongs to God. No person can therefore belong to another person within the Kingdom of God. At most, a person can “rent” themselves out as a servant for a set period of time. But once that time was over, that person was given a choice. They could remain as a servant indefinitely, or they could be returned to their lands.

The nobles were not only enslaving Israelis, but were taking their homeland so they could not repay – a clear violation of God’s Law!

Deuteronomy 15:12-15 (ESV) If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. 13 And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed. 14 You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the Lord your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today.

Israel was saved from slavery by the love and mercy of Almighty God. The Church Age Christian is saved by the love and mercy of Almighty God. Thus God’s people – saved by grace – are not in any way to enslave or bind their fellow believer. The Jews knew this, but were taking advantage of the situation to line their pockets. This offended God, and infuriated Nehemiah!

Nehemiah 5:6 And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.

Unity against the enemy is so important for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Jesus said:

Matthew 18:20 (HCSB) For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”

God the Son does not come to indwell our services unless we are in harmony with one another and with God. God’s people are to be together in His Name. What does this mean? It means that we unite under the authority of God, following His agenda, His Word, and His direction.

Illustrate: The number “3” is a very important number in the Bible. One online source notes:

Many numbers in the Hebrew language tend to have a deeper meaning. Three, shelosh [f.], sheloshah [m.] means harmony, new life, and completeness. The number three appears in the Bible 467 times, fewer than the number seven, but more than most of the other symbolically important numbers. Sometimes three is used as an emphatic Semitic triplet to describe the intensity of something. It’s not just holy. It’s holy, holy, holy.”

Before Jesus went to the Cross of Calvary, He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. THREE times Jesus prayed “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39). Our Lord Jesus rose from the grave on the THIRD day (1 Corinthians 15:4). There are THREE Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 22:32). Also very important, our God is TRIUNE or THREE PERSONS.

If you hold three fingers HEAVENWARD for the number THREE, you will see that it forms the letter “W”, which is the beginning of WE. Where WE are in one accord with God and one another, God is with us. If you hold three fingers EARTHWARD for the number THREE, you will see that it forms the letter “M” for “Me”.

God will not bless selfishness nor self centeredness. The Kingdom of God is the KINGDOM of GOD. It does not belong to me or you. His Kingdom exists to glorify God, and to spread His influence throughout the earth. Because the nobles are disobeying the Scripture and putting themselves first, the work of rebuilding the walls – which had been going wonderfully – has come to a halt.

Nehemiah Gave Us A Pattern For Dealing With Problems

Nehemiah 5:6-7 I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words 7 Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them.

Dr. Warren Wiersbe notes that …

Nehemiah was not a politician who asked, ‘What is popular?’ or a diplomat who asked, ‘What is safe?’ but a true leader who asked, ‘What is right?”

Though Nehemiah was “very angry” when he first heard of what the nobles were doing, he was not controlled by his anger.

Before Nehemiah spoke out, he consulted with himself. The worst thing a leader can do is to speak hastily. The Bible says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). Nehemiah can add to the problem, or cause the problem to de-escalate. Solomon rightly said, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble”. (Proverbs 21:23). Here’s a few more texts I’ll give you at no extra charge:

Proverbs 12:18 (ESV) There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Psalm 34:13 (ESV) Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.

1 Peter 3:10 (ESV) For Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;

Nehemiah carefully and prayerfully considered what he should do, based upon what he knew of God’s Scripture. Once he gleaned God’s direction, Nehemiah spoke the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Challenging the nobles, Nehemiah set a great assembly against them. He brought God’s Kingdom together on one place to judge if what the nobles was doing was right or wrong.

Nehemiah 5:8-10 I said unto them, We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen; and will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer. 9 Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies? 10 I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury.

Nehemiah reminded the nobles that it was the Grace of God that redeemed Israel from bondage to unbelievers. Now the nobles are doing the same thing that Babylon and Medo-Persia did: they are enslaving their brothers in the Lord. Nehemiah reminded them that they needed to stand TOGETHER against the enemy:

Nehemiah 5:9 ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?

Every person was needed, no matter who they were, to stand with Israel and resist the devil. Nehemiah charged the nobles, saying:

Nehemiah 5:11 Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them.

Word Study: The hundredth part of the money was an interest rate that would amount to around 12% annually. Nehemiah demanded that the nobles not only return their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, but also the interest that they had been charging their brethren. Verse 11 starts with the word Restore, the Hebrew שׁוּב shûwb, {pronounced shoob}, meaning “put things right”. As believers together in the Kingdom of God we are in the restoration business. We are not to be “making merchandise” of our brethren. In the New Testament our Lord Jesus chased the moneychangers and sellers out of the Temple, telling them:

John 2:16 Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.

The Apostle Peter spoke of …

2 Peter 2:1, 3 … false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. … {who} 3 through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

God’s people are to be about Kingdom Business, winning souls, and glorifying the Lord Who saved us.

After Repentance And Restoration
The Wall Repair Continues

Nehemiah 5:12-13 Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise. 13 Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labor, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the Lord. And the people did according to this promise.

To those who are outside the Kingdom of God because of faithlessness, we are to treat them as we would be treated (Matthew 22:37-40). But to those inside the Kingdom, Children of God by faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26), we are called to love them as Jesus loves us:

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. {35} By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

The nobles were to forgive the debt that the poorer people incurred, whereas the poorer people were to forgive the indignity that the nobles placed on them. The power of God’s Kingdom is in the presence of God – and God will only be present when we are in one accord. Jesus told us:

Matthew 18:15-20 (ESV) If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Oh that God’s Kingdom would grow! Lord, I pray, use us for Your glory. Use us to spread Christ’s Gospel and to build Your Kingdom. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen and Amen!

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God Gives Greater Grace

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Please turn with me in your Bibles to James chapter four. Our text for today is:

James 4:6-7 But He {God} giveth more grace. Wherefore He saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

A Texas oil tycoon had one of his most prolific oil wells on fire – and every minute it burned he lost thousands of dollars in black gold. The tycoon called every fire department in that area, begging them to come and put out that fire. They came, and tried to get to the fire – but the blaze was just too hot! All they could do was contain the blaze from a distance. About 15 minutes after all the other fire departments responded, the Volunteer Fire Department came chugging along. The Fire Chief was driving Ol’ Betsy, a 1926 American LaFrance vintage fire engine. Wheezing and puffing, Ol’ Betsy took the crew past the other engines, and stopped well within blistering range of the inferno. The men jumped off, quickly set the hoses, and within minutes put out the fire. Everyone cheered! The firemen – heroes all – started stowing their gear, their protective clothing still smoldering. The Oil Baron was ecstatic. Finding the Chief, he promised to donate a million dollars to the Fire Department. After all was settled down, the local newspaper interviewed the Chief. The first question asked was, “Chief, that was fantastic! We’ve never seen such bravery! What do you plan on doing with the million dollars you’ve been promised?” The Chief smiled, and sighed. “I think the first thing we’ve going to do is get the brakes fixed on Ol’ Betsy!”

When young people learn to drive, the most important thing they must learn is how to brake the vehicle. I believe that knowing when to “put the brakes on” is important, not just for fire engines and cars, but for life. Our country is in a run away condition today because people have turned away from God. As the famous Dr Phil (Phillip McGraw) often asks on his show, “How’s that working for you?” I don’t think it’s working well for any of us. The Bible says that:

1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace …

When you watch television or read the news, do you see peace in our America, or anarchy, hatred, division, and war? God wants us to havepeace. Not just peace with Him (though this is important), but peace with others, and with yourself. Jesus said:

John 16:33 … in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Jesus is the Healer. Jesus is the means to Grace with God. When the blind came to Jesus, He healed them. When the crippled came to Jesus, they left walking. When the leper came to Jesus, He took away their disease. When we come to Jesus – receiving Him as He is – God is free to not only forgive our sins, but also to free us from our sins. The Bible says:

Romans 6:16-18 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

Coming to Jesus in faith will change your heart, and this in turn will change your life.

The Beginning Of The Blessed Life Is
Submission To God

James 4:6 But {God} giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

God is the Source of Grace, and God will give more grace. What is this thing we call grace? Dr. Charles Stanley in his pamphlet What Is Grace writes:

I remember a person once saying, “He did not like the word Grace; he thought the word Love meant the same and was much better.” This is a mistake, grace goes a great deal further than love. Man loves that which in some ways he thinks worthy of love, and he thinks God is the same as himself, and therefore he says, “I must turn to God some day and try to be worthy of His love; and then He will love me.” Now the grace of God is the very opposite of this human thought. I do not know anything like it in the whole world. “What is grace?” said I, the other day. “Mercy,” was the reply. Well, it is true the love of God and the mercy of God are both very, very wonderful. “God who is rich in MERCY, for His great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins”; and both the mercy and love of God are thus in grace; that is in pure unmerited favor. Yet this grace of God goes further, yea, far beyond the reach of all human thought.”

Grace is when God does not give us what we deserve. God does this every day. God has done this from the beginning of humanity. When God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God told Adam:

Genesis 2:16-17 (CEB) … Eat your fill from all of the garden’s trees; 17 but don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because on the day you eat from it, you will die!”

God – Who is God – established a right and a wrong. He told Adam what was right, and clearly outlined what was wrong, and what the consequence of that wrong would be. What did Adam do? He did that which was WRONG, disobeying God. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Adam disobeyed God. He did not submit, but arrogantly chose to do what HE wanted to do. The Scripture says:

Romans 5:12 (ESV) … sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned

When Adam sinned, he did not go to God for Grace. Instead, Adam sought to do “penance”. The Bible says that he took fig leaves and, sewing them together, made a covering for his and Eve’s sin. When God called Adam out of hiding, Adam stood defiantly in front of God and blamed Eve for what happened. He would not submit himself to God. God as Judge could have killed Adam had He wished. The wages of sin is death. Adam had been warned. But instead, God allowed Adam and Eve to live. Not only this, He took away the “Fig Leaf Designer” clothing that they were wearing, and killed an animal. Taking the pelt of the animal (Genesis 3:21) the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. This is Grace. Adam and Eve deserved death, but God, in His abundant love, gave them life.

God blesses the prideful with life, but no one can have a life with God apart from His Grace. When we humble ourselves before Him and call upon His Name, He gives us Grace and Greater Grace. God taught Adam and Eve that:

Hebrews 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

Sins against God are only covered by the shedding of blood, by death. Adam and Eve did not die in the Garden that day because God killed an animal in their place and, taking it’s pelt, covered their sin. Yet this was only a temporary covering, for God could not allow them to stay in Paradise. A greater covering for sin had yet to come.

That greater covering is found only in Jesus Christ. The Scripture says:

Colossians 1:19-20 (ESV) For in (Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through (Jesus) to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

From the time of Adam’s fall until Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary, mankind covered sin by the sacrifice of animals that were considered “without spot or blemish”. But these animal sacrifices were only temporary, given by the Grace of God until Jesus came. When Jesus Christ came – God the Son becoming the son of Man – He came as God’s only covering for sin. Because He died on Calvary for you and me, our sins can be covered when we give our lives to Him. The Scripture says:

Romans 3:23-27 (ESV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a {satisfactory payment} by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.

It is only through the Blood that sin is covered – only through the Blood of Christ. Yet so many people are like Adam. We take fig leaves, and try to cover our sins. It is insufficient. The Blood must be shed! The Blood must be claimed.

Adam and Eve had two children named Abel and Cain. The Bible tells us that Abel offered a sacrifice to God, a creature without spot or blemish, but Cain’s offering was without Blood. God received and honored Abel’s offering, but the Scripture says:

Genesis 4:5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

When God told Cain to make the offering right, to bring an offering of Blood to Him, Cain stewed rather than submitted. God told Cain:

Genesis 4:7 (ESV) If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.

Had Cain brought an offering of Blood as Abel did, then God would have given him Grace. But Cain wanted to do it his way. He refused, and eventually shed the Blood of his own brother Abel. Abel’s blood could not make payment for sin – for only Jesus can do this. The animal sacrifices were “types” or Old Testament shadows of what Jesus would do on Calvary. The Bible says:

Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.

Abel shed the Blood of the creature – an Old Testament shadow of Jesus’ Cross – and through this sacrifice was received of God. The Bible says:

Hebrews 12:24 Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

When Abel’s blood was shed by Cain, his blood cried out to God from the ground it soaked into. What Abel’s blood cried out for was JUSTICE. But when Jesus died on the Cross of Calvary, His Blood spoke to God, not for JUSTICE, but for MERCY. Cain let sin master him … but God still gave him a measure of mercy by marking him, but not by killing him as he so richly deserved. But Jesus’ Blood, shed for the believer, cries out to God MERCY, MERCY, MERCY!

When you come to Jesus by faith, the Blood of the Savior is applied to your life. Jesus said:

John 10:27-30 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: {28} And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. {29} My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. {30} I and my Father are one.

It is for Jesus’ SHEEP that He died. A sheep submits.

James 4:6-7 … God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God …

There can be no eternal life without submitting to Jesus and to God. While you are stiff necked and unbending, screaming and crying:

It’s MY body!
It’s MY life!
It’s MY choice!

There is no salvation for the prideful, nor any blessing from God for the arrogant. There is only “weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth”. Jesus declared that in the judgment day:

Matthew 13:41-43 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

We See Greater Grace In The Life of Abraham

A Christian family was on vacation in another state and decided to visit a Church on Sunday. Before the Pastor started his sermon, he had everyone get up and shake hands with those around them. Thinking this was a great idea, when that family returned home they told their Pastor about their experience – and he loved the idea! That Sunday the Pastor got up before the congregation and said, “Next Sunday we’re going to start standing up and shaking hands with those around us before I begin to preach!” One man in the audience leaned over and, whispering to the woman in front of him, said “I think that’s a great idea. What do you think?” The woman replied, “Hey, we’re not starting that friendly stuff till next week!”

When you become a sheep of Christ, submitting your life to God the Holy Spirit, you realize that Grace is not just a one time thing that happens at the point of salvation. Grace is a daily thing that we as the children of the Kingdom rely on. God gives GREATER Grace.

The Bible always defines itself. When it speaks of GRACE, it gives us a perfect illustration of what GRACE is supposed to be. We see this illustration in the life of Abraham …

Romans 4:3 Abraham BELIEVED God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness

Abraham BELIEVED God”. What does this mean? How did Abraham BELIEVE God? God told Abraham:

Genesis 12:1-2 … Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee: {2} And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

Abraham HEARD the promise of God.
God said “Get up, move, and I will bless”.
Abraham then ACTED on what he HEARD.
Abraham MOVED.

So many people today say “I believe God”, but they at no point in their lives obey God. What did Jesus say? My Sheep HEAR My voice, and FOLLOW Me, AND BASED ON THIS I GIVE THEM ETERNAL LIFE”. If Abraham had not followed God to the Promised Land, Abraham would have died “Abram” and would have never had any children. But Abraham HEARD and OBEYED. He submitted.

Vs 6 God resisteth the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

We are to SUBMIT to God, but RESIST the Devil. Faith is a process, not a point in time. You will always lose the Promised Land, the Promised Child, or the Promised Peace if you do not follow the God Who made the Promise!

God came to Abraham one day and said, “Abraham!” He told Abraham “You remember that child Isaac I gave to you? I want you to do something for Me.

Genesis 22:2 (ESV) … “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Abraham, that child you waited for 25 years to have – the one I promised when you were 75 years old – your ONLY son – I want you to sacrifice him to Me. Abraham, do you believe in Me?”

I’m sure when Abraham first heard this, his heart skipped a beat! Yet Abraham did not argue with God. Believing in God, he got up early the next morning, took his son and two helpers, and headed out to sacrifice Isaac. When Abraham and Isaac started up that mountain, Isaac asked, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering”? Abraham merely replied,

My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering.

On that mountaintop Abraham laid Isaac on an altar. Tying him down, and arranging the wood around him, Abraham prepared to cut his own son’s throat. As he prepared to use the knife, God stopped him, saying:

Genesis 22:12 (ESV) … “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.

Abraham submitted to God. He looked, and saw a ram caught in the thicket, and offered up that ram instead of his son. What did God tell Abraham following the sacrifice? He said:

Genesis 22:16-18 (ESV) …. “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his[a] enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.

Dear Christian, you cannot be blessed unless you submit to God. A Christian is saved by faith in Christ and blessed by submission to God. When the trials of life overwhelm you, do not submit to worry or fear – submit to God. When tempted of the devil do not heed his hissing voice – submit to God. Submit to God in the valleys, and submit to God on the mountaintops. God giveth greater grace. Seek Him, seek His face, do His will, read His Word, and submit. May God touch your hearts with His Word.

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The Nature Of Saving Faith

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Turn with me in your Bibles to James chapter 2.

Someone asked the question,

Why is Church Attendance – Gathering with other Christians – important? Is it important?”

If you view Christian salvation as just being saved from hell and receiving the promise of Heaven – if that’s all “being saved” is – then Church attendance is NOT important. After all, once you purchase and receive a ticket from a travel agent, you don’t need to go back to the travel agent. You’ve got what you came for. So if salvation is like getting a ticket to Heaven from Jesus, Incorporated – and if the Church is where you purchase that ticket – then there’s no need to go back to Church. Your ticket’s been paid for. Transaction complete. You don’t need to even look at this Bible anymore. After all, it’s just a brochure about a place you’ve reserved to be. Right?

That’s how many people look at Christianity. You’ve bought a ticket on the “Good Old Gospel Ship”:

I’m a gonna take a trip,
In that good old Gospel Ship,
I’m a going far beyond the sky.
I’m gonna shout and sing,
Till all of Heaven rings,
When I bid this old world goodbye.

Since the Gospel is only about going to Heaven, let’s close up shop and get to the fried chicken! That’s how many believe. Yet this is a false gospel. The Apostle Paul severely condemned those who perverted the Gospel of Christ. He said:

Galatians 1:8-9 (ESV) even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Those are very strong words. So what was the Gospel that Paul preached? In that same chapter I just quoted the Apostle said:

Galatians 1:3-5 (ESV) Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Jesus came not just to get us into Heaven, but to deliver us from the present evil age. The Christian is a person who has been:

Colossians 1:13-14 (NASB1995) … rescued … from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of {God’s} beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

We are members of Christ’s Kingdom. We who are saved by the Grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:8) no longer belong to this world. We are a Kingdom People – and Jesus is our King. The day you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9-10) you were called out of darkness and into God’s marvelous light. The Bible says:

Ephesians 5:8 (ESV) for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

James was martyred for his faith and for preaching Jesus. James was not only the stepbrother of Jesus, but he was the first Pastor of the Church in Jerusalem. The reason we come together as Christians is so we can mature as Christians, and walk in a way that is pleasing to our God. We learn from the Book, just as the early Church did. The early Church

Acts 2:42 (ESV) … devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

It is God the Father’s intent that every child of God by faith in Christ be like Jesus. We are challenged to:

Ephesians 5:1-2 (ESV) … be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

James focuses on the output of the Christian life. If you are a Christian, you should in some way look like Christ. Your behavior should be increasingly Christ honoring. Are you at James chapter 2? We read:

James 2:17-20 … Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

Saving Faith effects the TREE of your life

A genuine saving faith will always produce the fruit of righteousness, not of darkness. Our Lord Jesus said:

Luke 6:43-45 For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Those who are saved by the Grace of God are “good trees”. The saved want to produce good fruit, fruit honoring to God. The saved want to follow Jesus. Jesus said, Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). Those who are saved, are saved out of darkness and evil. Those who are saved, are saved to both follow and be like the Lord. Jesus told the religious Pharisees:

Matthew 12:33-37 (ESV) “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

The Pharisees were religious, but unsaved, for they rejected Jesus Christ. They followed the portions of the Law of God that suited them, but ignored the whole of the Law. Why? Because their hearts were corrupt. They were in the darkness of sin, bound to it, enslaved to it. How do you make the tree good and its fruit good? We cannot do it in our own strength.

We must come to Christ, broken as we are, and give our lives to Him. When we give our lives to Him, He gives His life to us. God comes to indwell us. God’s Word becomes our textbook, and we students of Christ.

James 2:17 … Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

Genuine saving faith will always effect the output of the life. What does saving faith do?

Saving faith effects the TONGUE in your head

James 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.

James says that if we are genuinely believers, then our tongue will be bridled. We have all made remarks that we wish we could take back. The difference between a Christian and a lost person is that the Christian will feel discomfort and guilt and the conviction of God the Holy Spirit when we misspeak. The Psalmist prayed:

Psalm 141:3 Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!

This actually happens when you are saved. When a person receives Christ as Lord and Savior, Jesus sends the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, into our lives (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Titus 3:5; 2 Peter 1:4). The Spirit encourages us to …

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Word Study: If a person has a tongue that is perpetually uncontrolled, then this man’s religion is VAIN. That word translated VAIN is the Greek μάταιος mátaios, (pronounced mat’-ah-yos), which means “useless, of no purpose or good”.

Your tongue was given you so that you can TASTE good food, and TALK good and truthful words.

Our standard is to be “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Your words have the power to build up or destroy. Use your words in a way that honors Jesus Christ our Lord. In Chapter 3 James says:

James 3:3-8 Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 4 Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. 7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

When James says, the tongue can no man tame, he is talking of the tongue of the unsaved person. The lost use their tongues and lips to speak darkness. But the saved are to speak the Word of God and the Light of God. A lost person is rarely concerned about their tongue and its output. The saved are. James says:

James 3:10-12 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

If you are saved by Grace, born again of the Spirit, you are called to be “wells of living water”. Remember what Jesus said?

John 7:38-39 (ESV) Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

An unconverted mouth is a sure sign of a useless faith.

Saving faith effects your TREATMENT of others

James tell us:

James 2:1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

What is respect of persons”? It is when we treat one person because of their

Color
Nationality
Fame or Popularity
Financial Status
Position in the Community

better than we treat another. James gives us an illustration:

James 2:2-4 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

James starts with if there come unto your assembly. When believers are gathered together in συναγωγή synagōgē or synagogue, and a stranger comes in, we are not to value that person higher because they dress better, or have a better economic status. Every life is valuable to God. We are not to devalue a person who is well off, but we are not to devalue another person who is not well off. To see someone shabbily dressed – perhaps a homeless person – and to tell them Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool is an affront to God. Jesus Christ died for the whole world. Jesus gave His life so that “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Every life is valuable. Every life is precious. James quotes the Royal Law we as Christians are under:

James 2:8-9 If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

The Christian is very much under the Law of Love. Jesus told us that the Great Commandment is:

Matthew 22:37-40 (ESV) You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

These are the twin pillars of the Christian faith. Love God with your all. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Treat people as valuable, for they are valuable. After all, Jesus died for all:

2 Corinthians 5:14-17 (ESV) For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Every life has value. To put someone down under your footstool because they are poor is the action of a lost person. When our Lord Jesus taught on the Doctrine of Hell, what image did He give us?:

Luke 16:19-23 (ESV) There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.[f] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.

Did the rich man go to hell because he was rich? Absolutely not. He went to hell for devaluing Lazarus, a human being created by God, a human being for whom Jesus died. Every life is precious, for every person is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Jesus often emphasized this by using Samaritans in His parables, for the Jews hated the Samaritans. My Beloved,

Romans 2:11 there is no respect of persons with God.

When God caused Peter to go to the Gentile Centurion named Cornelius, that Apostle said:

Acts 10:34-35 … Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35 But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.

There is no room for racism and hatred in the Christian faith. We are saved so we can share the Gospel with every person, regardless as to their person.

We have seen that:

Saving Faith effects the TREE of your life.
Saving faith effects the TONGUE in your head.
Saving faith effects your TREATMENT of others.

Now we see that

Saving Faith Effects That Which You TREASURE

James 2:20-24 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

In order to explain what saving faith is, James goes to an illustration that will be understood by everyone. He speaks of Abraham our father. The Prophet Abraham is known and studied by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Though each of these faiths see Abraham differently, he is nonetheless revered by all three.

Why is Abraham important in the study of saving faith. Abraham was childless, married to a woman incapable of giving him a child. Though Abraham was well to do, Abraham’s greatest desire was to have a child. God came to Abraham one day and promised him:

Genesis 12:1-3 (ESV) … Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

This childless man was promised that – if he followed God – then God would make of you a great nation. That means that Abraham would have to have at least ONE CHILD to call his own. So Abraham began to follow God. He focused his heart on following God. God was not incidental to Abraham’s life.

James 2:23 … Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

As Jesus said to us all, If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Abraham loved God. He followed God, though often, as an imperfect person, he made errors and sinned. Yet he followed God. And though Abraham had to wait until he was 100 years old (Genesis 21:5). Abraham treasured Isaac his son. After all, he had waited most of his life for that child. Then one day God came to Abraham and told him:

Genesis 22:2 (ESV) … Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.

Abraham is given a choice. Abraham, Who do you love more? Is Isaac your treasure, or is God your Treasure? Abraham didn’t question God. The next morning he woke up early, “saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac” (Genesis 22:3). Abraham didn’t ask God any questions. He took his son to a mountain where God led him, and laid his son down to sacrifice on the altar.

Needless to say, God stopped Abraham before he killed Isaac on that altar. Why did God do this? To show us all that our greatest Treasure – if we are saved by faith in Christ – should be our God. When God settled Israel in the Promised Land, all of the tribes of Israel were given a portion of land. All the tribes, that is, except for Levi. God said of Levi:

Deuteronomy 10:9 (ESV) … Therefore Levi has no portion or inheritance with his brothers. The Lord is his inheritance

The Psalmist said,

Psalm 73:26 (ESV) My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Abraham’s portion, his greatest Treasure, was the relationship he had with God by faith. When God told Abraham to offer up Isaac, Abraham remembered the promise that God made,

Hebrews 11:18 (ESV) Through Isaac shall your offspring be named

Abraham believed that – even if he killed Isaac as God asked, that God would be able to raise Isaac from the grave (Hebrews 11:19). Abraham trusted God. Abraham treasured God. God was where his greatest Treasure was.

What do YOU treasure? Are the things of this life your treasures? Jesus said:

Matthew 6:20-21 (ESV) … lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

If your Treasure is God, if you are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, then you will live your lives to please Him. Are you saved? If you are, you are members of His KINGdom. My prayer is that each of you insure through God’s Word that God is your portion, and you are His. May God the Holy Spirit drive this Word deeply into your hearts. For the glory of God. Amen and Amen!

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Our God Will Fight For Us

Photo by Patricia McCarty: https://www.pexels.com/photo/jesus-saves-neon-signage-1769691/

Please turn with me in your Bibles to Nehemiah chapter 4.

The Bible tells us that we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). As a nation, we came through two years of COVID – and are still being plagued by COVID. I suspect that COVID is something that will be with us forever, much like Influenza. How can this be “good”? But COVID was, indeed, good. COVID exposed a great deal of evil that was going on in our country, evil we were unaware of. Our children were being taught something called “Critical Race Theory”, which postulates that all who are “white” are evil, whereas people of color are inherently “good”. The group “Moms For America” in an article entitled Critical Race Theory Teaches Our Children To Hate Their Country, Neighbors, and Themselves notes:

A national organization named “Black Lives Matter at School” (BLMS) is infiltrating our children’s schools with a “new uprising for racial justice” which includes teaching globalism, transgender and queer affirming agendas as well as promoting racism and sexism. The program has already been endorsed by the National Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in the United States.

Our schools have become a very dangerous place for our children. It has been reduced to a propaganda breeding ground where our children are taught they are either oppressed or the oppressors. The left says, if you’re Black you’re told you’ll never succeed because White people won’t let you; If you’re a girl you’re told you’ll never succeed because men will always hold you down; If you’re a boy you’re a future rapist and if you’re a White man you’re a racist rapist.

Is it any wonder our kids are depressed and suicide is on the rise—especially among teenage boys?”

If COVID and the mandatory closure of schools had not occurred, most parents would have remained unaware of CRT and what their children were being taught. COVID brought a number of things to light, not just CRT. COVID brought into the light how wide spread sexual perversity has grown in America, and has exposed both “Cancel Culture” as well as “Identity Politics”. The government is not helping matters, but is in fact promoting evil.

How can we fix this nation? We cannot, but Jesus can. Jesus is the Messiah, the King of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God MUST come if America is to right itself.

Nehemiah is a good study for all Christians now. Only united, in love with God and with one another, can we build the Kingdom of God on this earth. Jesus said in Luke 17:21, “The Kingdom of God is within you”. As God’s people work together for the glory of God (and not the placating of man) the Kingdom of God grows, much as leaven or yeast works within bread dough (Matthew 13:33). When God rules in the hearts of His people, and His people live for Him no matter where they are, there is nothing the devil or this world can do to stop us. Where King Jesus rules, the world cannot overcome. Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33).

When God’s Work Goes Forward,
Expect The Enemy To Grow And Attack

Nehemiah 4:1-3 But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. 2 And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? 3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.

Nehemiah has – through the Grace of God – been allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls around the capital city. Because God has blessed the work, King Artaxerxes has financed the rebuilding of the wall. This is amazing because Artaxerxes was one of the reasons the wall had been torn down for some 7 decades! God is in it, and so it will go forward.

But darkness will always oppose the Light of God. We read in verse 1:

Nehemiah 4:1 … when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews

Sanballat is the governor of Samaria, the capital city of Northern Israel. During the reign of King Rehoboam (the son of King Solomon) Israel divided into the Northern (10 tribes) and Southern Kingdoms (Judah & Benjamin). Jerusalem is the Capital City of Southern Israel, and Samaria the Capital City of Northern Israel. Sanballat is against the repair of the walls of Jerusalem. It is not to his advantage to have Southern Israel regather as a nation.

Sanballat and Tobiah the Ammonite (see Nehemiah 2:10) were “grieved that Nehemiah came to seek the welfare of the children of (Southern) Israel. As Nehemiah encourages the people to build, the forces of evil grow. Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian (Nehemiah 2:19) not only mocked the rebuilding of the wall before it was started, but also bore false witness, claiming that the rebuilders were actually rebelling against Artaxerxes. When the darkness attacks Pastor Gregory Brown in his article Recognizing The Tactics Of The Enemy notes:

How do we prepare for the attacks, and how do we defeat these attacks? Yes, we must put on the armor of God, which is primarily a righteous life. But along with that, we must be aware of the enemy’s tactics. Satan wants to immobilize us and keep us from progressing in our spiritual lives, and therefore, he will come with many different attacks. {Satan} wants to keep us from building and completing the work that God has called us to.”

How did the darkness attack Nehemiah? We read Sanballat … was wroth. The word wroth is the Hebrew חָרָה chârâh, {pronounced khaw-raw’}, which means “to BURN WITH ANGER, to BE KINDLED”. He approached Nehemiah in a white hot rage. He was hopping mad, and showed it in his voice and body language. How many times have we seen the enemy have a “melt down” over something they do not like. Last Sunday we studied in James where we are told:

James 1:20 … the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

The Way of Christ and the Kingdom of God do not operate on “meltdowns”. Our work is to bring in the Kingdom of God on this earth.

Sanballat – whether he knows it or not – wants to STOP the KINGDOM OF GOD from coming on the earth. He is not speaking in private to Nehemiah, but in the presence of many. He is like the young woman I saw the other day on Social Media having a “meltdown” over something that bothered her. The Psalmist (37:8) said, Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

What else did Sanballat do to thwart the Kingdom? We read:

Nehemiah 4:1 {He} .. took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.

Sanballat made fun of and mocked the Kingdom of God and it’s workers. We read:

Nehemiah 4:2 And {Sanballat} spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?

Sanballat mocks the rebuilding while inciting the army of Samaria. This army was standing nearby – close enough to hear – while Sanballat ridiculed the builders. The Bible says that Satan is the accuser of the Child of God (Revelation 12:10). The Bible says,

Romans 8:33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies …

Satan Does Not Want God’s Kingdom To Come

Satan uses people to discourage the work of God. He uses Sanballat to try and stop the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Notice the five question that Sanballat asks. These five questions have a dual purpose: they encourage the darkness, while discouraging the light.

  1. What do these feeble Jews? This question addresses the strength of the workers. These workers are “feeble” (ămēlāl, pronounced am-ay-lawl’), pitifully weak. These people do not have the strength necessary to rebuild a wall of any value. At the most, it will be but a facade. It is true that the workers are weak. Yet God tells us that My Grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The Bible tells us that I can do ALL THINGS through Christ Who strengthens me. If God is in the work with us, it will be done. The power is of the Lord!
  2. Will they fortify themselves? This is actually a subtle threat. If the work continues on, Sanballat is hinting that he will mobilize his army, and wipe out the workers.
  3. Will they sacrifice? The work before them is impossible. Will the workers sacrifice to God, and convince God Himself to rebuild the wall? It’s impossible, so they might as well give up. Beloved, Jesus said:

    Luke 1:37 (ESV) For NOTHING will be impossible WITH GOD

    When Igor Sikorsky, the inventor of the first helicopter, was a child his parents told him that human flight was impossible. When he built his first helicopter plant in America he had a sign put up for the workers to see. It read, “According to recognized aerotechnical tests, the bumblebee cannot fly because of the shape and weight of his body in relation to the total wing area. The bumblebee doesn’t know this, so he goes ahead and flies anyway”. Our God is the God of the impossible!
  4. Will they make an end in a day? Here Sanballat points out that the job is no simple one, that it will take a loooong time to finish, and the people will run out of energy. The Enduring Word Commentary notes:

    “Discouragement is such a powerful weapon because it is somewhat the opposite of faith. Where faith believes God and His love and promises, discouragement looks for and believes the worst – and tends to pretty much forget about who God is and what He has promised to do.”
  5. Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? Here Sanballat talks about their lack of materials. The original wall of Jerusalem was built of “white limestone. When this material is burned it loses its strength and hardness and turns to powder”.

The workers have no hope. As Sanballat finishes his diatribe, Tobiah pipes up:

Nehemiah 4:3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.

Even if you build up a wall, it won’t stand up to the slightest pressure. A fox will be able to jump up on it (it won’t be that high), and when he does, it will fall down (it won’t be that strong). But Tobiah refers to the wall as their stone wall. This isn’t their stone wall, it’s GOD’S stone wall. How does Nehemiah respond to Sanballat and Tobiah? We read:

Nehemiah 4:4-5 Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: 5 And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders.

Nehemiah doesn’t even address his critics. He goes directly to God in prayer. Pastor Steven J. Cole writes:

When the enemy opposes us as he surely will, we should respond with prayer, work, vigilance, and focus on the Lord”.

Nehemiah uses prayer as a weapon against fear. Hear, O our God begins his prayer. The word Hear literally means “to hear so as to do”. Nehemiah is calling on God to mobilize, and to defeat the enemy. The Bible tells us that we are not to take vengeance on the enemy, but to “give place to wrath”.

Romans 12:19 … for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord ..

We are called to serve our God, to glorify Him with our lives. Nehemiah has done his part. He went to King Artaxerxes. He made the long trip to Jerusalem. He shared and organized the rebuilding project with the refugees. Now Nehemiah asks God to do to the enemy what the enemy wanted to do to them. Nehemiah asks that they be defeated. He also said,

they have provoked thee to anger before the builders

Nothing angers God like those who will stand against His Kingdom and His Son. When you are doing the work God called you to do, and someone speaks against it, they are not speaking against YOU but against GOD. God told the Prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 8:7):

it is not you they have rejected, but they
have rejected Me as their king”

Nehemiah and the workers are doing what God called them to do. To attack them is to attack God. So Nehemiah prayed, recognized that the work they were doing was God’s work … then they all went back to work.

I love that. Nehemiah prayed, then went back to work. He did his part, and left God to do His part. We are not called to do God’s part. It is foolish to try. Only God can changed the heart of the wicked. Only God can protect us from the wicked. So Nehemiah and the workers went back to rebuilding the wall.

Keep Your Minds On Kingdom Work,
Not On
Worldly Distractions

Nehemiah 4:6 So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.

Verse 6 covers a undistinguished length of time. Sanballat and his men left the area, and the work continued unabated. We read the people had a mind to work. The people with Nehemiah were not discouraged, but their minds were united in wanting to serve the Lord in this project. This should be the Spirit in every Christian’s heart. The Holy Spirit is given to us to teach us the things of God. We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). United in their mindset, the workers passed the halfway mark of repairing the wall. Yet evil is persistent. The wall is only half as high as it should be.

Nehemiah 4:7-8 But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, 8 And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.

Sanballat first attacked the Kingdom of God, then Tobiah, then came along Geshem the Arabian. NOW WE SEE FIVE GROUPS have gathered together, and are conspiring to destroy Jerusalem and its workers. Though these five groups are all distinctive and different, that which unites them is that they HATE THE LIGHT OF GOD. They want to “fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it”. The word translated “hinder” is the Hebrew words ʿāśâ tôʿâ, {pronounced aw-saw’ to-aw’}, which means “to manufacture error or confusion”. Satan loves to bring confusion into the Kingdom of God. God is not the Author of Confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), but of peace. What did Nehemiah and the workers do?

Nehemiah 4:9 Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.

Nehemiah and the people prayed, and set a watch against them day and night. They asked God to do His part, and they did their part. By praying and doing, the people signaled that they were committed to following the Lord. The people also sent a message to the enemy. “We are not afraid of you, and will keep working no matter how much you threaten. The people also showed God their faith was in Him, not in themselves.

Nehemiah 4:10 And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall.

At the halfway mark there was so much debris on the ground that it was getting impossible for the workers to build. The work went smoothly until the debris piled up. Now it is critical that this rubbish be taken away. It is Judah, the Ruling Tribe of Israel, who suggests that the work cease because of the rubble on the ground. The enemy knows about this buildup of rubbish, and says:

Nehemiah 4:11 And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease.

To the workers, the rubbish on the ground was a tripping hazard, something that could stop the work. To the enemy, the rubbish on the ground is an opportunity to cause the work to cease. Not only this, but people from outside of the workers and Sanballat’s forces come into the city to discourage Nehemiah:

Nehemiah 4:12 And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you.

What did Nehemiah do in response to this further discouragement?

Nehemiah 4:13-14 Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.

Nehemiah arranged the workers so that those working on the lower parts of the wall were guarded by swords and spears and bows. Nehemiah asked to keep looking unto God, and keep on looking out for one another. Together Israel will win, or together Israel will die. The workers were to keep their focus on the God Who loved them so. Remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren. Love God, love your brothers and sisters in the faith. Nehemiah tells them:

Be not ye afraid of them, For
Our God Shall Fight For Us

Do not let fear drive you. Let faith drive you. Our God is great and terrible. He is far more powerful than any force that can be allayed against us. They are to be ready to fight for your brethren. The twin commandments of God’s Kingdom is:

Matthew 22:37 Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

Matthew 22:39 Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Now Nehemiah gets everyone working together. We read:

Nehemiah 4:16-18 And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons {širyôn, breastplates, armor}; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah. 17 They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. 18 For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.

Nehemiah divided the workforce into DEFENSIVE and OFFENSIVE. The DEFENSIVE worked on the wall, while the OFFENSIVE watched over the builders and prepared to fight the enemy. As the wall building progressed, the workers got spread out far enough apart to where the work crews could be attacked. Nehemiah kept the person who sounded the trumpet near himself. Nehemiah told the people:

Nehemiah 4:19-20 The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another. 20 In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us.

God promises to fight for His people, for those in covenant with Him. Nehemiah reminded the people that our God is a Covenant Keeping God. God tells us:

Deuteronomy 3:22 (ESV) You shall not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who fights for you.

Deuteronomy 20:4 (ESV) the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.

We may wield the weapon, but God controls the outcome. He looks after those who trust in Him. In Luke chapter 22, our Lord Jesus prepares to go to the Cross to die for our sins. Jesus tells His disciples:

Luke 22:36-38 (ESV) … But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

Jesus must go to the Cross and be “numbered with the transgressors”, that is, die between two thieves. So Jesus told His disciples to make sure they had a sword so they could thwart the enemy from killing Him before His time. There was an interesting article in the Journal of Biblical Literature 137, no. 2 (2018) {the article “Double Edged: The Meaning of the Two Swords in Luke 22:35-38}.

“… nothing must deter God’s salvific plan. In Luke 22:38, taking up the sword ensures Jesus’ safe transit to the Mount of Olives in prayerful preparation for His ensuing arrest; in Luke 22:51, putting away the sword ensures the arrest will proceed.”

Why must the wall be built around Jerusalem? Why must swords and spears be used, if necessary, to ensure that the wall is built? Because God’s grand plan to save this world requires that Jesus Christ be born of a virgin into this world through the nation Israel. If the wall of Jerusalem is not built, the Capital City will never be rebuilt. If the Capital City is never rebuilt, the Temple will never be built. If the Temple is not built, Israel will cease to be, and all prophecy related to the coming of Christ will be overturned.

But the wall must be built. Christ must come. Jesus must die on Calvary, and rise again. If He does not, the Kingdom of God will never come. And this, God will cause to come. our God shall fight for us.

The Kingdom of God MUST come. It must come to America, or our nation will fall. It must come through Christ’s people. Nehemiah and the workers understood that God’s Kingdom must come, and God’s will must be done. We end with these words:

Nehemiah 4:21-23 So we labored in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared. 22 Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labor on the day. 23 So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing.

May we so labor faithfully for our God. Let us bring in His Kingdom, and labor for the Master. For the preservation of America, and the salvation of our world. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen and Amen.

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Saved, You Will Be Sanctified

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Whereas the Apostle Paul was used by God to talk about salvation, James is used of God to talk about sanctification. What are the differences between the two?

Salvation Is What Jesus Does FOR Us
Sanctification Is What God The Holy Spirit Does TO Us

We are saved by faith in Christ. Receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit into our lives. The Holy Spirit causes us to be “born again” as new creatures in Christ. The Holy Spirit causes us to be adopted into the Family of God. The Holy Spirit stays with us, guiding us into daily being more like Jesus.

The saved by faith are always sanctified by works

James focuses on the process of Sanctification, a real part of a genuine Christian’s walk with God. When we studied the first twelve verses of James chapter 1, we saw how God uses trials (the KJV renders it as “temptations”) are used of God to make us like Jesus. James makes the point that genuine faith “endures temptation” or trials.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

The Greek Noun πειρασμός peirasmós, {pronounced pi-ras-mos’} refers to “a trial or difficulty that proves the genuineness of saving faith”. Those who will not endure the tests of life will not get the crown of life!

As water tests whether a creature is aquatic or a land animal, the trials that God allows us to go through prove our salvation. Trials can be initiated by God, or allowed by God, always with the intent of SANCTIFYING us. The truly saved endure TRIALS. A hurt child runs to its parent. A suffering believer runs to Jesus, calling on the Father. Those under the Sanctification of the Holy Spirit cannot fall away. The Scripture says:

1 John 3:8-10 (ESV) Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

The saved are changed by God the Holy Spirit, and the Law of Christ is written in their hearts by the action of Sanctification (2 Corinthians 3:3). Christians are called “Saints”, which literally means “Sanctified Ones”. This is what God prophesied in the Old Testament, saying

Jeremiah 31:33 I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

TRIALS Grow The Believer, And Are From God.
TEMPTATIONS Are NOT From God.

James 1:13-18 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. 16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Word Study: Here James is not using the noun peirasmos, but has switched to the verb peirazo. Though this verb can be used in a good sense, in most uses in the New Testament it is something that only the evil do. For instance, before Jesus began His earthly ministry, Matthew tells us:

Matthew 4:1, 3 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted {peirazo} of the devil. … And when the tempter {peirazo} came to {Jesus}, he said, If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

Though God the Holy Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness, it is Satan who peirazo, tempted Jesus to do evil. Later on in His ministry we see the Pharisees and Sadducees trying to destroy Jesus’ ministry:

Matthew 16:1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting {peirazo} desired Him {Jesus} that He would show them a sign from Heaven.

As these religious unbelievers continued to attack Jesus, our Lord called them out:

Matthew 22:18 … Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt {peirazo} ye me, ye hypocrites?

When Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Church, the Apostle said:

Acts 5:9 … How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt {peirazo} the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.

Trials may come on believers, initiated by either the world or by God, to grow the believer. Such trials are governed in duration and dimension by God our Father. But temptations to sin do not come from God, but solely from Satan, the world, or our flesh. God may allow Satan to tempt you to sin, but God has nothing to do with the temptation.

James 1:13-14 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

Temptation to sin – peirazo – never comes from God. In fact, part of the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray focused on asking God to lead us away from temptation:

Matthew 6:9-13 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

The Soniclight Commentary notes:

No good earthly father would deliberately seduce his child into sin by trying to make him or her sin. However, every good father will deliberately allow his child to enter situations in life in which the child must make moral choices. We realize that sending a child to school or into the community, at the proper age, is good for a child because it matures him or her. Likewise God grows us up spiritually by allowing certain experiences, including temptations, to assail us—though He Himself only gives good gifts to His children …”

The devil and this fallen world often sends enticement to do evil. As humans, we can be enticed to evil by our own darkened sin nature. Every person in this room – saved or unsaved – has an “old sin nature”. Every person is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

God is never the Author of sin

People today try to make out that God is sin’s Author. They say, “God made me thus, so how can God judge me?”. God did not make us “thus”. We were born in sin, children of Adam. Each one of us was born with a propensity toward one sin or another sin. Sin draws us away from God. “Our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6). Sin itself comes short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

Sin is darkness, not light. Sin is death, not life.
Sin never brings glory to God, so God will never entice to sin.
Death and darkness do not exist in God.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

James 1:15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

If what you perceive as a trial draws you to a place of lust, it draws you away from God. This is not God’s will for our lives. God wants us to walk WITH Him, not apart from Him. God will not put something in our paths that will draw us into sin. If it entices to sin, it is of Satan, not of God. James says:

James 1:16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.

Word Study: “DO NOT ERR” is the Greek πλανάω μή planaō mē, which means “do not wander away from God, do not be seduced, do not go astray”. The same phrase is used in:

1 Corinthians 6:9 (ESV) … do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived {planaō mē}

1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV) Do not be deceived {planaō mē}: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

Galatians 6:7 (ESV) Do not be deceived {planaō mē}: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.

1 John 3:7 (ESV) Little children, let no one deceive you {planaō mē}. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.

There is no sin nor darkness in God. God is Light. The first command that God gave in the Bible was “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” If it is evil, if it is sinful, if it dark, it is not of God, but of Satan and the fallen world.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

If it is evil or dark, it comes from Satan or fallen humanity. If it is goodandperfect, it is from God our Creator and Father. The word translated perfect is the Greek τέλειος téleios, {pronounced tel’-i-os}, which means “complete, finished, lacking nothing necessary to completeness, of full age or mature”. God does not do things by halves.

God always does everything for His own glory
and for our growth in Christ.

God is forever unchanging. He cannot do evil, nor be tempted to do evil. Everything that God brings into our lives is for His glory and for our growth. God is called the Father of lights, that is, He is the Creator of not just the Sun, the Moon, and the stars, but also of light. Most people do not realize that – in the Creation account – God created light, and named the light “Day, and the darkness He called Night” (Genesis 1:5). This occurred on the first day of creation. But God did not create the Sun, the Moon, nor the stars until the fourth day (Genesis 1:14-19). Light’s Source is NOT the Sun, the Moon nor the stars. The Source of Light is God Himself. He made Light itself, in all its forms, apart from the lights we see in our solar system. Darkness does not come from God – only Light.

In the True God our Bible speaks of there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Too many people assume that a “mean God” wrote the Old Testament, but over time God became more mellow and wrote the New Testament. One commentary notes:

God gave you every single good thing in your life. He is the source of all the good you have and all the good you crave. Who God is does not change when our circumstances change. He doesn’t go from being a good God to a bad God when our trials began. He is still the source of all the good in our lives; He never changes.”

As a Church we often say, “God is good – all the time. All the time – God is good”. God gives nothing that is not good. God leads us no where where it is not for our good. If we are led to a bad place, a place where sin has us in its grip, this is not where God led us, but where evil trapped us and we sinfully walked. In God there is no shadow of turning. With ordinary light – like the light that comes from our sun – the earth turns or rotates so that we move into darkness a few hours every day. Normal light casts shadows. But God’s light is shadowless. Though Israel often wandered away from God, and often broke His covenant, God’s promises stood true. God told Israel:

Malachi 3:6 (ESV) … I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

We change daily – but God never changes. The promises He makes to us are promises He is bound to keep. God does not wander from the path of light – nor will He lead us to wander away from light. I read this and loved it:

If there is darkness in your life, it’s not because God, the Father of Lights is turning; it’s because you are turning. He is the Father of Lights and in Him there is no shadow. There is no darkness in Him.”

The Apostle said:

1 John 1:5-7 (ESV) This is the message we have heard from {God} and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

God’s purpose in our lives is that we walk with Him in the light. God will never lead His child into darkness, into sin, into the ways of evil. When King Solomon wandered away from God, our Beloved Heavenly Father punished him. God punishes His children whom He loves. Solomon wrote in

Lamentations 3:1-6 (ESV) I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of {God’s} wrath; 2 He has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; 3 surely against me He turns His hand again and again the whole day long. 4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away; He has broken my bones; 5 He has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; 6 He has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago.

The chapter continues in this vein, as Solomon complains about the pain and the suffering he has undergone because he turned from God. But then, in the middle of the text, Solomon writes:

Lamentations 3:21-26 (ESV) … But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” 25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. 26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

If The Lord is your portion, if you are His child by faith in Christ, then He will never abandon your cause. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning. God never forgets the child that He purchased with the Blood of His dear Son. God watches over us morning and evening. God only allows things to come our way that are for our ultimate good. God made us to be with Him – in companionship with Him – not just in Heaven, but every day we walk on this earth.

James 1:18 (ESV) Of His own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Of His own will” God caused us to be born again when we responded to the Gospel in the affirmative. God was not forced to give us new birth. We did not coerce God when we believed on Jesus, receiving Him as our Lord and Savior. God freely and of His own will made the promise of the Gospel:

Romans 10:13 ..everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

When we broken creatures were convicted of our brokenness, and heard the wooing of the Holy Spirit, when we cried out to Jesus to heal us, God was not coerced. He wants us. He loves us. He bids us come to Him and receive life. He wants us to walk with Him daily, moment by moment. We are not called to a Sunday go to meeting religion, nor a religion of empty rituals. We are called to walk with God in the light, not to remain in the darkness of sin. The Scripture says:

2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV) For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

God did not save us to sin, but to serve Him in the light, to walk with Him through this present life.

Since God Is Sanctifying Us,
How Should We Then Live?

James 1:19-20 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

There is an old saying among students of Scripture, which is “When you see a WHEREFORE, ask yourself “What is it THEREFORE”? If we are saved by faith in Christ, and sanctified daily by the operation of the Holy Spirit of God, then we are to work with God. We are to intentionally walk with God. What does an intentional walk with God look like? James gives us three directives:

be SWIFT to HEAR
be SLOW to SPEAK
be SLOW to WRATH

We are called of God to imitate Jesus in controlling our tongues and our emotions. As Americans, we have a First Amendment right that gives us freedom of speech. But as Christians of the Kingdom of God, we are to glorify God our Savior in all that we say and do. Thus we are to be SWIFT to HEAR. Open our ears, listen to others completely. If you exercise your tongue too soon, you may, by that tongue, drive away a potential lost soul. You may also hurt the sanctification process in a fellow brother or sister in Christ. LISTEN to others, then carefully consider your words. Be SLOW to SPEAK. Our mouths are always getting us into trouble. King Solomon said:

Proverbs 17:27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.

Proverbs 21:23 Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.

Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

Just because you have the freedom to say it, doesn’t mean that you should say it. Restrain your words. Also, restrain your temper. We are to be SLOW TO WRATH. Again, Solomon said:

Proverbs 14:29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.

Proverbs 16:32 Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

As God’s Children we are commanded to:

Romans 12:19-21 (ESV) Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Trust that God will look after you. He will. God is faithful. He will never leave us, nor forsake us. If offended, let God deal with it. Follow the method that Christ gave us in Matthew 18:15-17. I pray you’ll read that text, and do as God says do. And Beloved, if your walk in life is not that of a child of God, then dear one, you probably still need to be saved. Do not assume you are going to Heaven because you performed some ritual that the local Church endorsed. Those who go to Heaven are the same ones who walk with God on this present earth. As Christians we are not perfect – but God is our portion.

Is He yours? May God the Holy Spirit draw you close to Christ this very day. Amen and Amen.

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Repent, Receive, And Do

Photo by Ian Turnell: https://www.pexels.com/photo/assorted-fruits-stall-709567/

Please turn with me in your Bibles to James Chapter One. This morning we talked about the difference between Salvation and Sanctification. Salvation is a place we enter when we repent and turn to Jesus, believing Him to be our Lord and Savior. Giving our broken lives to Him, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit of God to us to begin a lifetime work in our lives.

We repent of being our own god, and turn to God the Son, Jesus Christ.
We receive the Scripture as God’s Word – especially what Jesus decreed.
We reflect in our lives the life of Christ, for we are God’s children.

The “religion” that gets a person into God’s Heaven cannot be divorced from the way of Christ. Jesus taught us the twin pillars of our faith is to love God supremely, and to love others the way that Jesus has loved us (Matthew 22:36-40; John 13:34).

Opening: On July 11, 1656, two Quaker Missionaries Ann Austin and Mary Fisher arrived in Boston Harbor, New England. A Christian denomination called the Puritans ruled Massachusetts, much like the Pharisees ruled Israel in Jesus’ day. The Puritans believed the Quakers to be a cult. Deputy Governor Richard Bellingham boarded the ladies ship, ordered the women to stay on board, and confiscated 100 books the ladies brought with them. The books were burned, the women imprisoned without counsel or the ability to speak to anyone, and were stripped naked. The window of their cell was boarded up, and they were allowed no candle for light. No arrangement was made by the government to feed them. Bostonians were warned that any attempt to speak to these ladies would be heavily fined. A Christian innkeeper named Nicholas Upsall bribed the jailer five shillings a week to take food and water to the prisoners. Another ship owner, William Chicester, after 5 weeks agreed to take the women to Barbados. When they left, the jailer kept their Bible and bedding as his payment for “watching over” them. Nicholas Upsall was banished from Massachusetts for protesting the treatment of these Quakers – though Nicholas was a blameless Puritan and a faithful churchgoer.

This is not the way of Christ!

By the Grace of God we who are Christian are changed from children of Adam to “becoming” Children of God.

Preach! As Children of God, we do not walk in darkness, but in the light of Christ. We walk in love (Romans 14:15; Ephesians 5:2), realizing that we have no worthiness, but we are saved by Grace. We not cherish sin, nor do we hate people that are around us. We “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), always tempering our actions by a constant knowledge that we are all fallen short of the glory of God. We resist sin, knowing it caused the death of our Master on Calvary’s Tree.

The Christian Will Put Away All Of What “We Think”, And Put On All Of What God Has Said!

James 1:21-25 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. [22] But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. [23] For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: [24] For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. [25] But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

Wherefore”. When you see a “Wherefore”, ask yourself “What is it THERE FOR?” The “Wherefore” brings a conclusion. IF everything James shared with us from verse 1 to verse 20 is true, THEN there is something that God commands us do.

The Lord expects those who are His to heed His Word and to turn from the distractions and pretty baubles of this world. We are born again not by our works, not by our rituals, but by faith in Jesus Christ. We put our total trust in the person of the Lord Jesus, and

Ephesians 2:8-9 … by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: [9] Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Salvation is entirely an act of God. Just as Jesus healed the leper, the blind, the deaf, the cripple … He will change the life of those who believe on Him. The Scripture promises …

Romans 10:9-13 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. [10] For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. [11] For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. [12] For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. [13] For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Adrian Rogers said, “Salvation is not a plan, but a Man”. We are saved by receiving what the Lord Jesus Christ – for God’s glory – did for us on that Cross of Calvary. But salvation, dear friend, goes beyond the tomb.

Jesus died for our sins, but rose again to live through us. The Christian is not saved to COAST into Heaven. The Christian is saved to be a CHILD of Heaven.

Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love” (John 15:10). We are called to follow Jesus. Jesus believed the Scripture. Jesus came to fulfill God’s Word. If we follow Jesus, we follow God’s Word.

  • For Jesus sake you are kings and priests before God.
  • For Jesus sake you are adopted children of God.
  • For Jesus sake your sins are forgiven.
  • For Jesus sake you are indwelt by the Spirit of the Living God.
  • For Jesus sake God has prepared for you a mansion
  • For Jesus sake you are made a part of the Body of Christ, the Church.
  • For Jesus sake you have stewardship of the Gospel of Christ.
  • For Jesus sake we live as lights in this present world.

God’s people and God’s Church has a mandate to LIVE for Jesus, to LABOR for Jesus, to LONG for Jesus,
and to LAST for Jesus.

James 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness

Word Study: If you are a Child of God, you are to first of all – every day – to lay apart {ἀποτίθημι apotíthēmi, pronounced ap-ot-eeth’-ay-mee} that which does not honor Christ. The Christian is to honor Christ in all that we say and do. The word apotíthēmi is used for that which does not belong to us who believe and love Jesus. For instance,

Romans 13:12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off {lay apart, apotíthēmi} the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

The “works of darkness” that we are to cast off is lovelessness and doing evil to others. We are told that Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:9-10). We cannot win the world for Christ by being hateful, but loving. We must love as Jesus loves. We are to

Ephesians 4:22-24That ye put off {lay apart, apotíthēmi} concerning the former {way of life} the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Before we came to Christ we followed our own path. Now in Christ we follow Jesus, doing that which the Bible says, loving others whether they love us or not. We are told in …

Colossians 3:8-10 But now ye also put off {lay apart, apotíthēmi} all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

The old ways of the world are not what we imitate. We imitate God. We DO His Word, His Teachings. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way:

Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside {lay apart, apotíthēmi} every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us..

Cast away every weight AND the sin that so easily trips you up. Put away anything that hinders your walk with God. Sometimes people come to me and ask me if this is a sin, or that is a sin. Dear friends, the Bible says that anything that stands between you and your Lord is to be cast off as filthy.

James 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness

Word Study: James tells us to cast off all filthiness. This is the Greek υπαρία rhyparía, {pronounced hroo-par-ee’-ah}, and it refers to the things that, if you touch them, they will defile you. Under the Old Covenant there were certain times when people were forbidden to touch something:

  • Those with leprosy were not to be touched. Leviticus 13:46 “He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp” (ESV). Nor was a dead body to be touched. “Put out of the camp everyone … who is unclean through contact with the dead” (Numbers 5:2, ESV)

The reason God had Israel forbid the touch of the infected or dead was to limit exposure and infection among His people. Under the New Covenant we do not exile people for disease, sickness, or death. We are, however, to put away from us anything that might defile our walk with Christ. The words translated “superfluity of naughtiness” is Old English, and better translated today as “all that remains of wickedness”. The devil often entices us from the path of righteousness with touch.

Sin enters the mind through the senses – touch, taste, hearing, sight, smell. But TOUCH is the thing that most often draws us away from the light of God.

God tells us today as His children:

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

touch not the unclean thing”.

  • Do not handle poison ivy if you don’t want to scratch.
  • Do not pick up the pornographic magazine.
  • Do not continue to watch sexual encounters on the television.
  • Do not type a reply to a sensual temptation on social media. God for Christ’s sake has forgiven {us}” (Ephesians 4:32).

Put away that which God has said is filthy, lest you become defiled by it. I heard an old Pastor say one time,

If you play in the toilet, you’ll catch something!”

Preach! What do we often see? There are professing Christians running around with the Ku Klux Klan and Black Lives Matter. This does not honor Christ! There are professing Christians out drinking and partying with the lost. This is not what Christ came for. There are professing Christians who vote without regard to what the Scripture says. Does your candidate support what Christ supported? If not, REPENT. There are professing Christians suing other professing Christians in court, totally in violation of Christ’s decree. My Beloved, these things must not be!

Bind yourselves to the Lord Who loves you, and gave Himself for you. The Apostle said:

1 John 2:15-17 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [16] For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. [17] And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.

Lay aside the things that are worldly and unendorsed by the Scripture. The world may normalize it, but we must not abide it in our lives. When sin is in the believer’s life, this sin grieves the Spirit of God and quenches the Spirit of God.

Ephesians 4:30 (ESV) do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.…

1 Thessalonians 5:19 (ESV) Do not quench the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit empowers us to do the work of Christ, to live in the Kingdom of God. Do not alienate the Spirit. Walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh (Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16). Lay aside the sin that is in your life, for it blocks your ability to hear the Word of God. Examine yourselves. If you have sins that need to be cast off, cast them off. God cannot grow you to the next level of discipleship until you put away that residual sin in your lives! If you have things that are not necessarily sin, but these things are impeding your service for God, put these things away also. If it blocks the hearing of God’s Word it should not be in the believer’s life.

Putting Away Sin, We Open The Word Of God In
Partnership With The Spirit Of God

James 1:21 … and receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls …

Word Study: The word translated meekness is the Greek PRAUTES (prauthj pronounced prah-oo’-tace), which means “an attitude or disposition to humility, a receptive spirit”. Not only does sin in your life keep you from receiving God’s instruction, but a hard hearted or “I already know that” arrogance of spirit also binds you from the Word of God. In this text the Scripture is called the “engrafted Word“. The Greek for engrafted is EMPHUTOS (emfutoj pronounced em’-foo-tos), which is a gardening term meaning to “place a graft“. The Bible tells us that the Church is God’s farm or field. The Apostle wrote:

1 Corinthians 3:9 (ESV) … you are God’s FIELD, God’s building.

When we submit to God’s Word, and allow the Holy Spirit to plant that Word in our lives, then God can cause our field to bloom. God gave us the Holy Spirit “to guide us into all truth” (John 16:13-14).

The Word of God, the Scripture, doesn’t just save our souls from hell. But the Scripture received can save our souls from a hell on this earth!

When The Scripture Is Received, It Brings Forth Fruit
Unto God From The Field Of Our Lives

James 1:22 But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

The person who will not DO what God has said is dangerously deceiving themselves. Though works of righteousness do not SAVE a person, once a person is saved they will DO works of righteousness. This is consistently taught in both Old and New Covenants. God said to Israel:

Exodus 20:5-6 (ESV) You shall not bow down to {false gods} or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

To those who serve the false gods of this world, God allows their iniquity to – karma-like – come back to them. But to those who love the Lord and keep {God’s} commandments, to those the Lord shows STEADFAST LOVE. Now I’m sure some will say, “But this is the Old Covenant. We are not under the Old Covenant! I don’t have to obey God if I am saved by Grace – I am not under the Law!” No, dear friend, you are utterly confused. For under the New Covenant we read the words of Jesus:

John 14:15-17 (ESV) … If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 AND I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth

The Holy Spirit only comes to those who keep Jesus’ commandments. To make sure we understood this, Jesus repeated Himself shortly after this, saying:

John 15:10 (ESV) If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

The Son of God is to keep God’s Commandments. This is true whether under the Old Covenant or under the New Covenant. Christ must not be just received as your “Savior”, but Christ must also be received as your “Lord”. We who are saved are citizens of the Kingdom of God. The citizen of the Kingdom of God on this earth will one day be transferred to be a citizen of the Kingdom of God in Heaven.

Jesus is Lord! God is Lord!

Illustrate: Let me tell you a story. In a certain Kingdom, the King decreed a series of laws that He expected all of His subjects to adhere to. The penalty for rejecting the King’s Law was to be cast into a dungeon, a place of darkness and separation and suffering. Then one day the King offered to adopt as many as would come to Him into His Family. Some heard the offer of adoption, but decided they did not want to be that close to the King. But others heard this message, and came to the King’s Throne. Kneeling before Him, they pledged their lives to His Family, and the King received them as His own sons and daughters. The King’s Children are not LESS responsible for following the King’s Law, but are MORE responsible – because they love the King. They are not worthy to be the King’s Children, but by His magnificent Grace they are. And their hearts overflow with joy in following their King.

Christian, our identity is not in ourselves, but in the Kingdom of God. James emphasizes this.

James 1:23-25 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

The “believer” who is a HEARER but not a DOER is like a lost person. They look in the mirror, and then try and decided what manner of “person” they are to be. This is the world we live in today. People look in the mirror at themselves divorced of God and His Rule, and say “I feel that I identify as …”. One magazine I read noted:

There are many different gender identities, including male, female, transgender, gender neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third gender, and all, none or a combination of these.”

Other worldly sources say that there are three genders, or seven main genders, or fifty two genders, or 72 genders. Why all the confusion? It is because people are looking in the mirror at themselves, and are listening to other lost people tell them how to be found. A lost person looking in the mirror at their lostness, and listening to a lost world, will be confused and lost. But a Child of God does not look in the mirror, but at the perfect law of liberty, the Law of the Family of God. My identity is tied to my Heavenly Father, to the Lord Jesus Who saved me, and to the Holy Spirit Who indwells me. James emphasizes:

John 1:25 … whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed

I serve a Risen Savior. You do, too, if you are saved.

I thought I’d end with a poem written by Jonathan Blake Carmac called Victa (conquered):

Out of the night that covers me
Into resplendent light that makes whole,
I thank my God in Jesus Christ
For conquering my wretched soul.

In the hands of Almighty God,
I have oft winced and cried aloud.
Yet due the bludgeonings of God,
Christ’s head is bloodied, mine is bowed.

Within this place of wrath and tears
A Father whose strength is a shade,
And so the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me unfraid.

Hard the way and narrow the gate,
Yet payed the charges on my scroll.
Christ is the Master of my fate:
Christ is the Captain of my soul.

May God the Holy Spirit use His Word to reach other for Christ’s Kingdom. Amen and Amen!

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The Wall Is Repaired Through Unity

Photo by Atypeek Dgn: https://www.pexels.com/photo/destroyed-stone-monument-in-dry-desert-5799243/

Please turn with me in your Bibles to Nehemiah chapter three.

We have been studying the Book of Nehemiah, and how that wonderful Book relates to the Church today. God expects His Church not to languish, but to grow. As the Church we are called to promote the Kingdom of God in this present world. Jesus sent us with a specific commission to tell others about Him and His Gospel, and to be the light of God in this present darkness.

Israel was destroyed because they got away from the Word of God, and started to love themselves more than they loved God.

God sent a series of enemies into Israel – Babylon, Assyria, and Medo-Persia – to punish His people and awaken them from their sinful slumber. The Church in America today is in much the same place. We are a “Post Christian” nation because we as Christians have not stood at our post. Years ago the great Evangelist Dwight L. Moody said:

A great many people have got a false idea about the church. They have got an idea that the church is a place to rest in … to get into a nicely cushioned pew, and contribute to the charities, listen to the minister, and do their share to keep the church out of bankruptcy is all they want. The idea of work for them—actual work in {and through} the church—never enters their minds.”

This is a poor concept of the Church. God calls His Church to work together for His glory. The reason that God gave us ministers:

Ephesians 4:11-13 And {God} gave … apostles; and … prophets; and … evangelists; and … pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting {καταρτισμός katartismós, [pronounced kat-ar-tis-mos’] meaning equipping or maturing} of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect {τέλειος téleios, [pronounced tel’-i-os], complete} man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ

Every member of the Church is called by God to serve God, to glorify God, to be like the Son of God.

A Christian not serving God is an abnormality. There is coming a judgment day for every Christian where we will give an account to Jesus as how we used the Grace He gave us. We are not to be judging our brothers and sisters in Christ, but are to be working together:

Romans 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at naught thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

We are called to judge ourselves, so we will not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31). Whether saved or lost, everyone will stand before Jesus and be judged one day. The Christian’s salvation will not be judged, for our salvation was settled at the Cross. But Beloved, God did not give us salvation so we could coast into Heaven. We are called to live for God, to work for God. The Scripture says:

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Together We Can Fix The Wall

As Nehemiah called on Israel to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, we read:

Nehemiah 2:17-18 … Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that WE be no more a reproach. 18 Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And THEY said, Let us rise up and build. So THEY strengthened their hands for this good work.

Nehemiah wanted Israel to understand that they were in this mess TOGETHER. What you are feeling and suffering is not someone elses’ problem. It’s ALL our problem.

They were all in a mess. The walls of Jerusalem, some two miles long, were totally destroyed. With the walls down the inhabitants of Jerusalem were at the mercy of the criminal element. The Temple could be rebuilt, but it would be easily ransacked by invading unbelievers. So Nehemiah told the people the scope of the problem … and pointed to God as the solution. Nehemiah made sure the people understood that HE did his part, and GOD did His part.

Nehemiah 3:1 Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel.

Eliashib the high priest” along with the priests of Israel were the first to rise up and build. Eliashib is the grandson of the High Priest Jeshua, who first entered the land with Zerubbabel and Ezra. The name Eliashib actually means “The God of Conversion”. As High Priest, Eliashib rose up to build, and his brother priests followed his example. The words “rose up” is the Hebrewקום ,qum, (pronounced koom), which means “to rouse oneself, to lift up, to approach with excitement”.

They started at “the sheep gate”, an area where sheep were brought into Jerusalem to be sacrificed in the Temple. There is a pool near this market called Bethesda, and around that pool were five porches that overlooked the water. It was here that Jesus met a crippled man that had laid there 38 years, unable to get into the healing waters. Jesus told this man “Rise, take up your bed, and walk” (John 5:8). This is the incident that led to the Pharisees to attacking Jesus because Jesus healed people even on the Sabbath Day. We are told in:

John 5:16-17 … therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. 17 But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.

If Eliashib the high priest along with the priests of Israel had not risen up to do their work of repairing the gate and the wall where they did, the Temple would have never been rebuilt.

If the Temple had never been rebuilt, the sick and infirm would have never gathered around the Pool of Bethesda.

If the people had never gathered around the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus would never have revealed His deity and Himself as the Son of God, sent to pay for the sins of the world.

When Eliashib and his fellow priests did their work for God, they had no idea that the area they built on would one day be visited by the Son of God. We do not know how what we do today will be used by God in the future. As God’s priests (and every believer is a priest unto God – for “Christ hath made us Kings and Priests unto God” – Revelation 1:6) we are to rise up in love and work for our Lord. We read:

they sanctified it …

Word Study: They sanctified the gate and the wall that they worked on. This is the Hebrew קָדַשׁ qâdash, {pronounced kaw-dash’}, which means “to hallow, to consecrate, to dedicate to God as sacred”. Though the High Priest did not know how God would use his work and the work of his brethren, he knew that the work was for the glory of God. The Bible says:

Colossians 3:17 (ESV) And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV) Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

We serve a Risen Savior. He’s in the world today! I know that He is with me, no matter what men say!” The Priests worked together for the glory of God. Again, Paul encourages us:

1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV) So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

The “Sheep’s Gate” is where Jesus Christ, “The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) would one day walk. Jesus said:

John 10:7-9 … I am the Door of the sheep. 8 All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the Door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

Commentator and Preacher Harry Ironside saw each of the Gates mentioned in Nehemiah chapter 3 as an allegory, or something with a hidden Biblical meaning. I don’t think it’s wrong to see it this way.

In the Old Testament the Jew went to God by the Law, bringing in animal sacrifices through the “Sheep’s Gate”. But because Jesus Christ came through this Sheep’s Gate to Bethesda, and eventually to the Cross, we have the promise that …

Hebrews 10:10 we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Thank God for the Sheep’s Gate. But also thank God for the fish gate.

Nehemiah 3:2-3 And next unto him {the High Priest} builded the men of Jericho. And next to them builded Zaccur the son of Imri. 3 But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.

The sons of Hassenaah worked on the fish gate. This was a commercial gate through which fish from the Jordan and the Sea of Galilee entered Jerusalem. Since their name means “thorny” or “prickly” these possibly could have been fishermen. They were, it is certain, hardened workmen. Jesus told us:

Matthew 4:19 … Follow Me, and I will make you “fishers of men”

God used a variety of people to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem. In like manner, it takes a variety of people – diverse in education, ability, station, and color – to make up a Church. The Bible says of the Church:

Galatians 3:28 there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

Together We Honor God

God brought people from all walks of life together to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. God brings people from all walks of life to build His Church.

Nehemiah 3:4-5 And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz. And next unto them repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabeel. And next unto them repaired Zadok the son of Baana. 5 And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.

We may not know these people, but we can identify with them. They were people from all walks of life who loved God and loved one another.

What binds people together?
Love of God, and love for one another.

You see the phrase next unto them repeated over and over throughout Nehemiah chapter three. This is what God expects of His people. Before our Lord Jesus went to the Cross He prayed:

John 17:21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

When God’s people are in turmoil, fighting among themselves, complaining and self seeking, they are not being good witnesses for Christ. Jesus prayed that His people would be unified in their mission of love toward God and toward one another that the world may believe that Jesus Christ is indeed the Messiah. God’s people are to be distinguished by unity. “God is not the Author of Confusion, but of Peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). God’s Kingdom is filled with various gifted and talented people,

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 … there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

If God is in the people, they will be unified in the mission. People are saved by God to love God and love others. We are to …

Ephesians 4:1-6 … walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Not all, however, were working for God. We read:

Nehemiah 3:5 … but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.

Word Study: Who are the nobles? This is the Hebrew אַדִּיר ʼaddîyr, {pronounced ad-deer}, which means “the powerful, famous, glorious, lordly, godlike”. This was the “privileged class”. Like the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees of Jesus’ day, these people thought themselves too good to get their hands dirty. They felt that they should be waited on, instead of putting their necks to the work of their Lord. God spoke of these people through the Apostle, saying:

Titus 1:16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

There are many on the rolls of the Church that pretend to be saved, and pretend to know God, but do not. One day these nobles shall stand before God and give an account for their lives. God help them!

Nehemiah 3:6-11 Moreover the old gate repaired Jehoiada the son of Paseah, and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah; they laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, and the locks thereof, and the bars thereof. 7 And next unto them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite, and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon, and of Mizpah, unto the throne of the governor on this side the river. 8 Next unto him repaired Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, of the goldsmiths. Next unto him also repaired Hananiah the son of one of the apothecaries, and they fortified Jerusalem unto the broad wall. 9 And next unto them repaired Rephaiah the son of Hur, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem.

God took note of who worked – and who didn’t! We see at least 7 different vocations of people listed in the building:

1. Priests Nehemiah 3:1
2. Goldsmiths Nehemiah 3:8
3. Apothecaries (druggist) Nehemiah 3:8
4. Rulers Nehemiah 3:9
5. Nethinims (water carriers) Nehemiah 3:26
6. Gate Keepers Nehemiah 3:29
7. Merchants Nehemiah 3:32

I’m not going to go through every name of every person who worked on the walls and gates. But I do want to note some interesting aspects in this section.

People Worked On The Gates And Walls
Nearest Their Homes

Nehemiah 3:10 And next unto them repaired Jedaiah the son of Harumaph, even over against his house. And next unto him repaired Hattush the son of Hashabniah.

Nehemiah 3:23 After him repaired Benjamin and Hashub over against their house. After him repaired Azariah the son of Maaseiah the son of Ananiah by his house.

Nehemiah 3:28 From above the horse gate repaired the priests, every one over against his house.

Nehemiah 3:29 After them repaired Zadok the son of Immer over against his house. After him repaired also Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah, the keeper of the east gate.

Nehemiah had people working on the walls and gates nearest their own homes. Why was this smart? First, it was closest to you. They didn’t have to waste time traveling every day, and could start on their project earlier in the day. Second, you will take greater care of the wall nearest your home and your loved ones.

The Enduring Word Commentary brings out an interesting point about the men’s names who made repairs in front of their homes. I quote:

· Nehemiah 3:10 mentions Jedaiah, and his name means “He who calls unto God”. Our homes must be places of prayer, where the family calls unto God.

· Nehemiah 3:23 mentions Benjamin, and his name means “Son of my right hand”, speaking of a protector. Our homes must be places of protection and peace.

· Nehemiah 3:29 mentions Zadok, and his name means “Justice”. Our homes must be places of justice and integrity, especially with integrity regarding our marital vows and promises.

· Nehemiah 3:30 mentions Meshullam, and his name means “Devoted”. Our homes must be places of devotion and separation to God.

What is in our homes will be in our Churches. Let us, as God’s people, realize that rebuilding the walls that have fallen begins by rebuilding the walls in our homes. As goes the home, so goes the Church. As goes the Church, so goes the nation. May God the Holy Spirit light a fire in our hearts to love and serve our God. For the glory of Jesus! Amen and Amen!

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Water Baptism An Act Of Obedience

Photo by Andrii Ishchenko: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-woman-being-baptized-in-a-lake-6672761/

Acts 2:38-41 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Baptism In Water Settles The Issue Of Who Jesus Is

In this part of Acts we are seeing Peter preach the Gospel on the Day of Pentecost. This is around fifty days after Jesus was crucified on the Cross, and around 10 days after Jesus rose from the Grave and ascended into Heaven. Jesus told His disciples to “wait for the Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4), that is, to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. For 10 days, 120 disciples prayed in the upper room – probably the same room where Jesus gave His Lord’s Table.

The Holy Spirit came on the Church in a mighty way, anointing the disciples with fire. Peter, on fire for the Lord, went out and began preaching the glorious Gospel of salvation. Fifty days before the crowd in Jerusalem cried out for the crucifixion of Jesus. Pilate, the Governor of Jerusalem asked the people:

Matthew 27:17 Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?

The Bible says that the the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. So when Pilate asked that question, the crowd, incited by the religious leaders, said “Release Barabbas, but let Jesus be crucified”. Though Pilate asked more than once, the crowd was adamant. Jesus must die!

So Jesus died. The soldiers stripped Him, and put on Him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head, and a reed in His right hand: and they bowed the knee before Him, and mocked Him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked Him, they took the robe off from Him, and put His own raiment on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him” (Matthew 27:28-31). They did not lead Jesus away to sit upon a throne, but to hang upon a tree. The soldiers led Jesus to a mock palace on a hill called Calvary. The Bible says:

Matthew 27:34-37 They gave Him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when He had tasted thereof, He would not drink. 35 And they crucified Him, and parted His garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted My garments among them, and upon My vesture did they cast lots. 36 And sitting down they watched Him there; 37 And set up over His head His accusation written, This Is Jesus The King Of The Jews.

Jesus’ Lordship was a mockery, something the unbelieving world made light of. The unbelievers mocked Jesus as He suffered shame and agony on Calvary. “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself” (Luke 23:37). “If You are God’s Son, come down from that Cross. Save Yourself (Matthew 27:40). Jesus is just another Man to these people. He might have been a Rabbi, a great Teacher. But King? Pshaw! No such thing is true. Jesus is just a misguided Jew, a Heretic, a False Teacher.

But then, crucified on Calvary, Jesus died between two thieves. Laid to rest in a borrowed tomb, a guard was set on that Tomb. And three days later, that Tomb was empty. Jesus Christ rose from the grave.

As Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, he preached that Jesus Christ is the Risen Savior. He said:

Acts 2:22-24 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it.

Jesus Christ did die on that Cross, mocked and shamed. But Jesus did not stay dead. He was raised from the grave by God, and was seen of many. Death could not hold Him. Though it was God’s Will that Christ die on that Cross for our sins, it was wicked hands that crucified Him. Those who should have known better killed Jesus out of jealousy. Men killed Jesus on a Cross, but God raised Jesus up to sit on the throne of Heaven. The Man that the Israelis killed was not just a Jewish Teacher, but He was, is, and will always be more than this.

Jesus Is Lord Of My Life

The Jews had been hoodwinked into believing Jesus was no more than a heretic, a false prophet. But Jesus is no false prophet/ Jesus Christ is THE Son of God. Jesus Christ is THE LORD of His people, as well as the SAVIOR of His people. Peter declared plainly:

Acts 2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

They mocked Jesus when He declared Lordship while on this earth. But Peter presents to us all that Jesus is both Lord and Christ. The word Christ is a reference to Jesus’ saving work. Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the ONLY Messiah. God caused Jesus to rise from the Grave on the third day, and Jesus went out and taught His followers for 40 days before ascending to Heaven. Peter preached in

Acts 4:10-12 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which {Jesus} is become the head of the corner. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Jesus Christ Is The Cornerstone On Which
The Kingdom Of God Is Built

Salvation is freely available to all, but only through faith in Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Who died for our sins. It is Jesus Who, after three days, rose from the Grave. There is none other Name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Only by faith in Jesus as “both Lord and Christ” can anyone be saved.

Realizing that they had been duped by the priests and scribes, the Bible says that those whom Peter preached to asked:

Acts 2:37 … they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

We have killed God’s Son. We have crucified the One and Only Messiah! We are guilty of the most atrocious murder in all of human history. What shall we do? How can we fix this? Peter is very clear:

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Peter outlined the plan of salvation very clearly here. How are we saved? What do we DO to contribute to our salvation?

We REPENT and OBEY JESUS

Dr. J.I. Packer said of what Peter preached:

It is easy to miss the full force of this. Peter was prescribing not a formal gesture of regret for the crucifixion (of Jesus), but total renunciation of independence as a way of living and total submission to the rule of the Risen Lord”.

Tonight we will baptize some young people “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. Why are we doing this? Why are the young people coming forward to be baptized? It is because Jesus said to do so, and they are obeying Jesus. God commands baptism in water for those who have received Christ as Savior. Baptism is an act of obedience.

When John the Baptist was baptizing converts in the Jordan, Jesus came to John and said “baptize Me”. John told Jesus, “I have need to be baptized of You, Jesus, not to baptize You”. Jesus told John,

Baptize Me – for we must fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15)

Baptism is an act of obedience to the Lord Jesus. Jesus commanded that His followers be “baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Following baptism, Jesus said teach them to observe ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER I HAVE COMMANDED YOU” (Matthew 28:20). We are baptized because Jesus is our Lord. We OBSERVE all that Jesus commands us to do. The first thing we are to do is be baptized in water. But baptism is not the entirety of what we are to do. We are to obey Jesus.

Jesus made baptism an issue for every Christian. The Bible says:

Philippians 3:20-21 (ESV) our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

We are citizens of Heaven, and Jesus is our Lord. Jesus said:

Matthew 23:8 (ESV) … you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers

What Jesus says is true, and the Scripture is authoritative.

Ephesians 4:25 … having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

We are all parts of the Body of Christ, the Church. We love and honor one another as we love and obey our Jesus.

Galatians 3:28 (ESV) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

These young women are making an open profession of their faith in Jesus tonight. By following Jesus in baptism they are declaring that Jesus Christ is their Shepherd and King.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

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This Do In Remembrance Of Jesus

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-pastor-removing-the-cover-of-a-communion-tray-8815229/

Luke 22:15-22 And {Jesus} said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: 16 For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. 17 And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: 18 For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. 19 And He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is My body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. 20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you. 21 But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth Me is with me on the table. 22 And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom He is betrayed!

I always enjoy celebration of “the Lord’s Table” (1 Corinthians 10:21), also known as “The Lord’s Supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20) or “Communion” (1 Corinthians 10:16). Some people call this celebration “The Last Supper” or “The Eucharist”, and that’s fine, but I prefer “Communion” or “The Lord’s Supper”.

Jesus could have established His “Supper” at any time, but specifically chose the Jewish time of the “Feast of the Passover”. Why? Because

Our God is a Covenant Keeping God

God has made Himself known to us through His Covenants or contracts that He made with man. The very first Contract God made with mankind is commonly called “The Covenant of Eden” or “The Edenic Covenant”. In that Covenant God told Adam:

Genesis 2:8-9 And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Adam and Eve had limitless sources for food. In the middle of that Garden, God put two trees – the Tree of Life, and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God told Adam:

Genesis 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

This is a very simple CONTRACT or COVENANT. God said “Eat anything BUT the Tree of Knowledge, and you can eat of all the other trees INCLUDING the Tree of Life. You will have life – a blessed life with God – as long as you DO NOT eat of that one tree.

Adam broke the contract, and was evicted from Eden. By one Man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin” (Romans 5:12). Sin came into the world and became mankind’s master. Because sin was our Master, death reigned (Romans 5:14). “By one man’s offense death reigned” (Romans 5:17). By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). Sin hath reigned unto death” (Romans 5:21). Sin became the Master of mankind, the king of a dark kingdom.

Adam thought that by disconnecting from God, he could be God. Adam was wrong. Disconnected from God,

Sin becomes our master, and Satan our Messiah!

But God would not leave us here. God loved us, and reached out to connect to us through Abram, a.k.a. Abraham. Here God established the Abrahamic Covenant, saying…

Genesis 12:1-3 (ESV) Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, … in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

God promised to make of Abraham a mighty nation – this would be ISRAEL. This is called the Abrahamic Covenant. God promised that THROUGH ISRAEL, HE WOULD BLESS THE WORLD. It was God’s intention to bring The Messiah, Jesus Christ, to humanity through Israel. Our God is a Covenant Keeping God.

God allowed Israel to grow IN Egypt, and to be eventually be enslaved BY Egypt. Only when Israel cried out to God, seeking to reconnect to Him, did God deliver His people.

God told Israel to take a Lamb without spot or blemish, and “kill the Passover Lamb” (Exodus 12:21). The Blood of that Lamb was to be placed on the doorway of the home of God’s people. God said:

Exodus 12:23 … the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.

Our God is a covenant keeping God. He passed through Egypt that night, and where ever He did not see the Blood of the Lamb, the Lord took life. Where the Lord saw the Blood of the Lamb He PASSED OVER judgment. This is GRACE. The Lamb was slain to save those who believed in God’s Covenant.

God established the Feast of the Passover as a memorial for Israel within it’s law. A Commentary notes:

Exodus 13:9. “This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that the law of the LORD is to be on your lips. For the LORD brought you out of Egypt with His mighty hand.” The purpose of the Passover as a memorial is for the people, “This day is a memorial for you.”

You will notice that there is a relationship in the Bible between remembering how God has delivered His people and the obedience of God’s people. If the people forget that they belong to the Lord and how Jehovah has delivered them, then they will show no regard for God’s law. If God’s law is going to be on their lips, then they must remember that they belong to the Lord because He has saved them from the tyranny of slavery. They are holy because they belong to the Lord.”

The Passover Meal Is A Memorial

Exodus 12:14 (ESV) This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.

And again Exodus 13:9 (ESV) … it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt.

Israel was enslaved to the world. But with the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb, Israel was freed from slavery. They were no longer bound to Egypt – that is, as long as they killed the Passover Lamb. The Lamb died so that Israel might live.

Our God is a Covenant Keeping God.

God made a Covenant with Adam. Adam broke it.
God made a Covenant with Abraham. Abraham kept it.
God made a Covenant with Moses and Israel.
God gave Israel the Passover Lamb.
Jesus will keep this Covenant.

Luke 22:7-13 Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the Passover must be killed. 8 And {Jesus} sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the Passover, that we may eat. 9 And they said unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we prepare? 10 And {Jesus} said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. 11 And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the Passover with My disciples? 12 And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. 13 And they went, and found as He had said unto them: and they made ready the Passover.

Before there is there is the Lord’s Supper, there must first be God’s Passover. Our God is a Covenant Keeping God. Jesus told Peter and John to go to Jerusalem and find a man bearing a pitcher of water. Back in these days there was no running water in a home, and it was a woman’s duty to gather water for the family. You would often see women going down to the river or to a well to draw water. But Jesus said, “you’ll see a man with a pitcher of water – follow him”. They followed this man back to a place where they could do as God demanded, and celebrate the Passover.

Luke 22:14-16 And when the hour was come, {Jesus} sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. 15 And He said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: 16 For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.

The Passover was fulfilled year after year by believing Jews, a reminder that they were supposed to be God’s people. The Passover Lamb was killed and eaten, a reminder that it was by Grace that God saved Israel from slavery to Egypt. Jesus said,

Luke 22:15 With desire I have desired to eat this Passover
with you before I suffer

With Jesus, The Old Covenant Ceases
And The New Covenant Begins

Jesus honored the Covenant that God made with Moses. But Jesus is now going to establish another Covenant with Israel, and with us. God is going to change things. Under the Old Covenant, man had to sacrifice a Lamb for forgiveness of sin. Man had to keep a feast for the forgiveness of sin. Jesus Himself Who came to “fulfill all righteousness” must honor the Passover Feast. But Jesus is going to establish a NEW COVENANT. This Covenant is not based on the Blood of an animal, but on Jesus Himself.

God foretold the New Covenant that we today have through Jesus. God said:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (ESV) Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

As Jesus sat with His disciples, He ended the Old Covenant and started the New Covenant. The Old Covenant relied upon animal sacrifices, feasts, and rituals. The New Covenant relies entirely on Jesus. We read:

Luke 22:19 And {Jesus} took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is My body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.

What is it that makes us right before God? It is the Blood, not of an animal, but of the Christ.

God told Israel, “Kill the Passover Lamb in remembrance of My love for you”. God now tells the Church,
“Jesus Christ is the Passover Lamb. His Blood brings the New Covenant, where God’s Law is written in our hearts.
See Jesus and remember how God loves you.”

This is My body which is given for you

Remember that no one made Jesus go to the Cross for our sins. Jesus willingly went. Jesus chose the nails.

1 John 3:16 (NLT) We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Remember that no one took Jesus life. Jesus willingly died for us.

John 10:17-18 (ESV) … I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.

The Father did not make the Son die for us. He laid His life down. Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, ESV). His Body was broken for us. Jesus said,

John 6:51 (ESV) I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this Bread, he will live forever. And the Bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh

Adam ate, and took away our Paradise, took away the Tree of Life. Jesus Christ came down from Heaven to give up everything so that we can have access to the Tree of Life in glory, and access to God Himself RIGHT NOW.

Luke 22:20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament (COVENANT) in my blood, which is shed for you.

Remember that Jesus Christ gave His Body and His Blood to deliver us from sin and darkness. The Bible says:

Titus 2:14 (ESV) {Jesus} gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Remember that Jesus did not save us by His horrific suffering that we might continue on in the darkness of this world. He saved us to deliver us from Egypt. He saved us to build the Kingdom of God on this earth. The Apostle said:

Galatians 1:4 (ESV) {Jesus Christ} gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

The Lord’s Table reminds us that we have been freed from the dominion of darkness.
A sinning Christian is an anomaly.

Yes, we do slip, we do fail. But we do not revel in sin. Sin is no longer our Master, but God is our Master. The Apostle said:

1 Peter 2:24 {Jesus} himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

The Apostle wrote in another place:

Romans 6:16-18 (ESV) Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

We who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called to “walk in the light”.

1 John 1:5-7 (ESV) … God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

The Lord’s Table is a reminder to us that we are members of His Kingdom. We obediently follow Jesus. We live through Jesus, and love Jesus. Our Lord said This is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). His Blood was not shed so that we might wallow in sin, but that we might be freed from sin.

We belong to Jesus.

I do not like to call this Communion, this Lord’s Table “The Last Supper”, for it was not.

After Jesus died on Calvary, He rose from the grave three days later. The Bible testifies that Jesus ate with His disciples following His resurrection. Jesus

  • Ate with disciples at Emmaus the Sunday evening He rose from the grave (Luke 24:30-32).
  • Jesus also ate with His disciples in a locked room that Sunday He arose from death (Luke 24:36-43)

The Apostle Peter – preaching at the Roman Centurion Cornelius’ home, said:

Acts 10:40-41 {Jesus} God raised up the third day, and shewed Him openly; 41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead.

Remember that the Lord’s Table is a memorial to us all. Death is dead to us who have received Jesus. We live now, and will live into eternity with Jesus. We sometimes fail, but sin is never our Master. Jesus is our Master. We live because He lives. Do you know Him? If Jesus your Lord and Savior? If not, receive Him now. Give your life to Him Who gave His life to you. May God touch your hearts with His Word! Amen and Amen.

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Working For God

Photo by Madison Inouye: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-brickwall-1101125/

Please turn with me in your Bibles to Nehemiah chapter 2. 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah. Nehemiah is the Cup Bearer or the Butler of the King Artaxerxes (a Persian King and conqueror of Judah). God has moved on the heart of Ezra and Zerubbabel to lead Jewish exiles back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. Some 12 years later some of these exiles return to King Artaxerxes palace and tell Nehemiah that the walls of Jerusalem are destroyed, and the gates burned with fire.

When the walls of the nation are fallen and the gates burned, the criminal element rule the nation. The walls must be rebuilt if righteousness will return!

Nehemiah seeks first God’s permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. Receiving permission from God, Nehemiah asks King Artaxerxes for help – who willingly gives it! Nehemiah travels to Jerusalem, surveys the damage done, then gathers the refugees in exile to present the facts to them. We read:

Nehemiah 2:17-18 Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. 18 Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.

What Are YOU Doing To Build God’s Kingdom?

Jesus told us “a house divided will not stand” (Mark 3:25). This is so very true. If the work of God will be done, then

God’s people must stand together for the glory of God, and work together for the Kingdom of God.

It has been my experience that people fall into various categories when it comes to doing the work of God:

  • There are COASTERS. These are people who coast around doing nothing, but they look like they are working.
  • There are COMPLAINERS and CRITICS who add nothing positive to the work, but drag the spirit of the workers down. Like the “murmurers” of wandering Israel, these people are like a cancer on the Body of Christ.
  • There are COMMISSIONERS who love to find work for people to do, but are unwilling to do the work themselves.
  • There are COUCH POTATOES who know what to do and know what they are called to do, but will not do it.
  • There are COMPROMISERS that believe that the light can make peace with the darkness.
  • Then there are COOPERATIVE CITIZENS of God’s Kingdom who, attentive to the call of God, move in unison with the Body to do the Lord’s work.

Nehemiah was very clear with the exiles. He said Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. Nehemiah did not sugar coat the problem. The capital city of Judah is as helpless as a 3 year old girl in a snake pit. While the walls are down and the gates are destroyed, the Temple cannot be completed and God cannot be honored. Jerusalem cannot be fixed with good intentions. Though we are called to pray (for the Scripture commands us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-19)), there must also be willing hands to work.

Nehemiah spoke constructively to the people. We read, I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. God had already worked to bring Nehemiah from the Palace of Shushan to Jerusalem. Nehemiah stepped out on faith. The Scripture tells us:

James 1:5-8 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Nehemiah stepped out on faith and did his part. He stepped outside his comfort zone – and God blessed him for it. Encouraging the people, the exiles united, saying:

Nehemiah 2:18 Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work

Sometimes the King James (which I love) adds words that are unnecessary. If you have a King James you’ll see the words this and work are italicized. What the text literally says is:

they strengthened their hands for good

How did they strengthened their hands for good? They started with Let us rise up and build. First of all, it is Let us. Who is US? US is first of all me and God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV) … whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

If we are walking with God, doing the will of God, then nothing can stop us. “If God be for US, who can be against US?” (Romans 8:31). Let God be in the US. Doing as Nehemiah did,

  • The people sought God’s will in prayer. If the work is OUR work then it will fail. But if God is in the work it cannot possibly fail.

Psalm 127:1 Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

The work might be possible without God – but it will be much harder, and might be IMPOSSIBLE.

God must bless the work.
God must want the work.
God must be in the work.

God sent Judah into exile because Judah kept cutting Him out of their lives. God prophesied and promised His people, saying:

Ezekiel 36:33-36 Thus saith the Lord God; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. 34 And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. 35 And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. 36 Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it.

  • The people drew strength from God’s Word, and turned away from the wayward word of man. God promises us that …

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him.

The people held onto the promises of God and focused on the Lord Who led them. The Scripture says:

Hebrews 12:1-3 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

The “Way” of God is not an easy way. It is a narrow way that few in this world want to walk. The world walks in darkness – but God’s people are to walk in LIGHT. Jesus said:

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

The people put away the “sin that so easily binds”. They put away unbelief, and doubt, and fear. They focused on the Lord Who saved them, and committed themselves to working together for His will.

  • The people committed to the US of fellowship. God’s work has always required more than one person. The Scripture says:

1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV) I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

God will not operate in the midst of a people who have no respect for one another. Jesus told us to “love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13:34). To serve God, all things must be “done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40), for “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace” (ESV, 1 Corinthians 14:33)”. The Scripture says:

2 Corinthians 13:11 (ESV) Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

The Devil Will Always Stand Against God’s Work

Nehemiah 2:19 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”

In the earlier part of this chapter we saw that:

Nehemiah 2:10 When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.

Sanballat” was a Moabite, and “Tobiah” was an Ammonite. These are cousins to the people of Judah, from the lineage of Lot (not Abraham). Neither Sanballat nor Tobiah wanted Judah released from exile in Persia. But now we see another person, “Geshem the Arab”, has joined the battle against God’s people. The Arabs are the children of Ishmael, the son of Hagar and Abraham. Ishmael was not the promised child that God would give to Abraham – Isaac was. Nonetheless God blessed the Arabs, just as He blessed the Jews. Yet the Arabs retained a hatred for their cousins the Jews.

Word Study: These three unbelievers come together to stand against the work of God. They “jeered at us and despised us”. In the Hebrew we see that they “jeered”, the Hebrewלָעַג lâʻag, (pronounced law-ag’) or “mocked them, held them in derision”. They also “despised”, the Hebrew בָּזָה bâzâh, (pronounced baw-zaw), said they were worthless. Jesus warned us against attacking others, saying:

Matthew 5:22 (ESV) … I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

People are not to be mocked, but loved and encouraged. We are commanded,

Matthew 7:12 (ESV) … whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus was quoting Leviticus 19:18 (you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord) as well as Zechariah 8:16-17 (do not devise evil in your hearts against one another).

When the devil wants to destroy a work of God, he always tries to make us feel worthless, and unloved of God.

What did the devil say to Adam and Eve?

Genesis 3:4-5 … Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

You are worthless. You are no good. God is depriving you. God does not love you. These are tactics the devil uses to stop the work of God. Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem also throw in this:

Nehemiah 2:19 … “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”

To rebel against the King is to court death. The intent of these three men is to plant fear in the hearts of the people so that they would do nothing. Jesus told us:

Matthew 5:10-11 (ESV)… Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The darkness will always accuse the light of evil. Pastor David Mathis wrote:

Unbelievers “are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery” — so what do they do? “They malign you” (1 Peter 4:4). After all, should we not expect the world, under the power of the devil (1 John 5:19; Ephesians 2:2), to lie about us? The Greek for devil (diabolos) actually means slanderer (1 Timothy 3:11; Titus 2:3). As Jesus said to his revilers in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. . . . When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

The world will do its best to hinder the work of God. “Homophobe”, “Hater”, “Holy Roller”. Please notice that Nehemiah did not attack these men back. We read:

Nehemiah 2:20 Then answered I them {Sanballat, Tobiah & Geshem}, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.

This is exactly what the Bible tells us to do. We are not to wrestle with pigs. If you wrestle with a pig, you’ll just get muddy … and lose in the end. Or as I heard someone say once,

If you waste time arguing with a fool,
they’ll end up beating you with experience”

Nehemiah kept his eyes on the promise of God. We are not to be part of the problem, but part of the solution. The Scripture says:

1 Peter 2:12 (ESV) Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Titus 3:2 (ESV) … speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

We are to “entrust ourselves to our God, Who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). This is what our Lord Jesus did. “When Jesus was reviled, He did not revile in return” (1 Peter 2:23). Nehemiah, like Jesus, focused on the project. The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build. Nehemiah told these three enemies:

Nehemiah 2:20 … ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah is not arguing with these men, but stating the facts for the people to hear. These men are unsaved. They care nothing for the work or the glory of God. Sanballat, Tobiah & Geshem have no portion(חֵלֶק chêleq, pronounced khay’lek, a “share”). As the neither the land nor God is theirs, they have no right” (צְדָקָה tsᵉdâqâh, pronounced tsed-aw-kaw’), no “righteousness” or “moral standing” in the matter. They also have no memorial (זִכְרוֹן zikrôwn, pronounced zik-rone’). They are living their lives without God, and when they are gone they will have accomplished nothing for the Lord.

What about you? When you leave this life, will you leave a legacy, other than a tombstone? Oh, I pray you will! If Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, when you leave this life you will leave a legacy in the lives that God has changed through your life. But if not, then you will have no memorial. Let us give our lives to Jesus as both Lord and Savior, and let us work – together – to grow His Kingdom on this earth. May God the Holy Spirit drive this Word deep into your hearts. Amen and Amen!

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Enduring And Eternal Faith

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Turn with me in your Bibles to James Chapter One. It’s in the latter part of the New Testament – Hebrews, James, 1&2 Peter, 1,2&3 John, Jude, Revelation.

James is not only one of the most misunderstood Books of the Bible, it is also one that is most needed in our day and age. You’ll understand why shortly.

James is the stepbrother of Jesus. After Mary bore Jesus as a virgin, she went on to have other children by her husband Joseph. Mary was not perpetually a virgin as the Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans and some Reformed Churches believe. One of the early Church pastors named Augustine stated in A.D. 411 that Mary was “a Virgin conceiving, a Virgin bearing, a Virgin pregnant, a Virgin bringing forth, a Virgin perpetual. With all due respect to this early pastor, and to the other churches that believe similarly, this is not in accordance with the Scripture. The Evangelist Mark wrote that – when others saw the miracles Jesus did – His neighbors said:

Mark 6:2-3 (ESV) “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?”

It is evident that Jesus had four brothers and at least two sisters. These were children Mary had by Joseph her husband. There is nothing wrong with this, as “the marriage bed is undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4). The Bible says that Joseph and Mary consummated their marriage after his wife bore Jesus (see Matthew 1:24-25). In John 2:12 we read that Jesus went to Capernaum with “His mother and his brothers and his disciples”. Based on the order in which the neighbors named Mary’s children, James would have been the firstborn after Jesus’ birth.

John 7:5 (ESV) Not even {Jesus’} brothers believed in Him.

Though James grew up around Jesus, he did not believe in the Lord until after Jesus rose from the grave. James, like most Orthodox Jews, believed that keeping the rituals of the Law saved him. It was only after Jesus rose from the grave and ascended to Heaven that James and his brothers began to believe in Jesus. The Scripture says:

Acts 1:14 (ESV) … {Jesus’ disciples} with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

James came to know Jesus as more than a stepbrother, but as the very Son of God, and was with the disciples on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given. Why did the brothers not believe in Jesus prior to the upper room? It is very possible that – as siblings – they were envious of the respect that Jesus received from Mary and Joseph. It is also true that the god of this world (Satan, the devil) blinds the minds of the unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4). In order for a person to be saved the “God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” must shine in our hearts, giving us a knowledge of Christ. No person is ever saved unless “the Father Who sent Jesus DRAWS them” (John 6:44). Salvation is a supernatural work that God does in our lives from start to finish.

The main point of James’ writing is that ….

Though None Are Saved By Their Works,
Once Saved, Genuine Faith Works

James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

The Book of James examines saving faith. As James writes under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit (see 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21), he immediately addresses the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, the exiled Israelis. Pastor John MacArthur states:

As those godly men were carried along by the Holy Spirit, He superintended their words and used them to produce the Scriptures. As a sailing ship is carried along by the wind to reach its final destination, so the human authors of Scripture were moved by the Spirit of God to communicate exactly what He desired. In that process, the Spirit filled their minds, souls, and hearts with divine truth” (Strange Fire, 2013, p 223).

God has James address the “twelve tribes scattered”, the nation Israel. Why is God addressing Israel? Because the Gospel came “to the Jew first – but also to the Gentiles” (Romans 1:16). God has not forgotten Israel (see Romans 11), but loves His people though they have forgotten Him. God is reaching out to Israel through James. Though “The Epistle of James is the most Jewish writing in the New Testament” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia), God included this Book in our New Testament for a specific purpose to us ALL, both Jew and Gentile.

Though salvation has always been by faith in God (and not a human work), once a person is saved the output or fruit of their life changes.

Before salvation, we ALL pursued that which is NOT God. We read:

Ephesians 5:7-9 (ESV) do not become partners with {the lost world); 8 for at one time you were darkness, but NOW you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true)

No Christian is saved by works – good or otherwise. We are saved by Grace alone, by faith alone in Christ alone. The same book of Ephesians notes:

Ephesians 2:8-9 … by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: [9] Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Salvation is the leper coming to Christ to be cleansed.
Salvation is the cripple crying out to Christ to walk.
Salvation is the blind calling to Christ to be given sight.
Salvation is the demon possessed soul being freed by Jesus.

Before James believed in Jesus Christ, he, like the twelve tribes scattered abroad, thought that he was right with God because he kept the feasts, the sacrifices, and the laws of God. James believed – along with other faithful Orthodox Jews – that they were Heaven bound because they followed the rituals of Judaism. God doesn’t care about our rituals, but wants us to love Him and walk with Him DAILY. God told Israel:

1 Samuel 15:22 (ESV) … Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.

What God desires of us is that we follow Him as God, obeying Him and listening to His Word. God said:

Hosea 6:6 (ESV) I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

God does not want our stuff nor our abilities. God wants our company. The Psalmist wrote:

Psalm 40:6 (ESV) In sacrifice and offering You {O Lord} have not delighted, but You {O Lord} have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.

God does not want empty ritual. God wants US. He wants US to walk with Him, to talk with Him, to be in His Presence moment by moment. God wants to walk with us – as He did with Adam – prior to the fall. When we walk with God in love with Him, we are as God has designed us to be. We begin to walk with God when we give our broken lives to Him. God said:

Isaiah 1:16-18 (ESV) Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before My eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. 18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

When we come to Jesus with empty hands, receiving Him as Lord and Savior, God the Holy Spirit effects a change in us. We become sons of God, children of the Most High. We were corrupt trees, bearing only corrupt fruit. Jesus said, A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit” (Matthew 7:18). When you give yourself to Jesus, believing Him to be YOUR Lord and Savior, God changes you from bad tree to good tree. God changes your root, and plants Himself smack dab in the middle of your life.

Jesus changes you from son of Adam to child of God.

Illustrate: When you are changed by Jesus, your perspective changes. I was pumping gas in my van the other day when a TV advertisement came on the pump (yes, it is weird). On that advertisement a young lady was saying that every morning you should get up, look in the mirror, and give yourself a “high five”. She said that this would change your day, giving yourself that “high five”. Beloved, this is what the devil wants you to do. He wants you to make a god of yourself, a god of your appetites, a god of your desires. This is not what your Heavenly Father wants. The opposite of this is true. The Bible says:

James 4:10 (ESV) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

1 Peter 5:6-7 (ESV) Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.

God does not want us to “high five” ourselves in a mirror. This is idolatry. Instead, God wants us to “high five” HIM. To start your day looking to the Lord Who loves you and has saved you.

If You Are Genuinely Saved By Faith In Christ,
Trials Will Strengthen Your Faith

The twelve tribes are scattered abroad because God allowed Israel to be scattered. James writes:

James 1:2-3 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

Word Study: Let’s look at the words divers temptations first. The word divers is the Greek Adjective ποικίλος poikílos, {pronounced poy-kee’-los}, which means “many types of”. The word is used in Matthew 4:24; Mark 1:34; and Luke 4:40 when speaking of the “many types of diseases” that Our Lord Jesus healed. The word TEMPTATIONS is the Greek Noun πειρασμός peirasmós, {pronounced pi-ras-mos’}, which means “experiences or trials that test or prove the quality of something”. God uses trials to test our faith so that we can see if it is genuine or disingenuous. When negative experiences come on the believer in God, they are not there because God is mad at us, nor because God does not care. The opposite is the truth. The Bible is clear that:

Romans 8:28 All things work together for good to those who love God; to them who are called according to His purpose

Every trial that comes our way, comes because God Himself in love allows them. For the believer the trial causes us to examine our faith. Pastor C.H. Spurgeon said:

Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil, and let us see what we are made of”.

God does not ordain trials to destroy us, but to make us more like Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. A surprising truth in Scripture is that trials not only prove and perfect our faith – trials proved and perfected the ministry of Jesus Christ. Now before you shut me out as a heretic, I believe that Jesus Christ was, is, and will always be without sin. The Book of Hebrews says of Jesus:

Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but {Jesus} was in all points tempted {peiraō} like as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 9:28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Jesus Christ was tried just as we who believe in Him are tried. He was tried when He was arrested, put on trial, beaten, and nailed to that Cross. Though John the Baptist declared that Jesus was “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, also see John 1:36),

Jesus did not practically become “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” until He was tried and abandoned, forsaken on the Cross of Calvary.

This is why the writer of Hebrews says (2:10) “it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. The Captain of our salvation was made perfect in that the suffering of the Cross was the reason why He came to this earth. Jesus was not abandoned on Calvary for no reason (see Mark 15:34). Jesus was left under the crucible of Calvary because it is only through Calvary that we can be saved. “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17).

Every trial, every tribulation, every valley, every suffering for the believer must be viewed through the lens of God’s love. We are called to REJOICE in trials, not to mourn them or be in fear of them. James tells us to count it all joy when we go through the fire of testing, for this fire will not burn up a genuine faith, but will prove a genuine faith.

James 1:2-3 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

James is not talking about trials that we bring upon ourselves. There are many trials we bring upon ourselves by walking away from God our Savior, by following our own path. James says when ye fall into. A fall is not deliberate – I never plan out a fall!

The only ones who plan a “Fall” are
Stunt-men and con-men! Amen!

Do you know when I am most likely to fall? When I walk in darkness. When I walk in the light, watching where I step, I do not find myself in free fall. We as believers are to:

1 John 1:7 .. walk in the light, as {God} is in the light

James is not here talking about trials or suffering that comes upon us because we deliberately depart from God’s Word. It was when Israel refused to cross over into the Promised Land that God decreed they would wander in the wilderness 40 years, until that generation of faithless believers died off.

When we suffer because we did something wrong, something against the clearly revealed Will of God, this is not a “trial” but a “discipline”.

  • When Moses struck the Rock in the wilderness instead of speaking to it (Numbers 20:12), God told him “Because you did not believe Me nor honor Me before Israel, you will not lead Israel into the Promised Land”.
  • When King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered Uriah her husband, God told him “the sword shall never depart from your house, because you despised Me, and took the wife of Uriah to be your own” (2 Samuel 12:10).
  • When King Jehoshaphat entered into an alliance with a wicked king to build ships, God told him “Because you allied yourself with an unbeliever, I will destroy your works” (2 Chronicles 20:37).

In our world today people ask, “Why is there HIV? Why is there AIDs? Why are there sexually transmitted diseases? Why are there so many mass shootings? Why are there homeless people? Why are so many addicted to drugs? Why are there so many single parent homes? Why are there this ____ and that ____? Many times our trials are not something that we “fall” into, but something we actively pursue. We may fall into a trial like this, but the truth is, we usually dig the hole. The Apostle warned:

1 Peter 2:20 (ESV) … what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

When we “fall into” trials not of our own making, these are events that God sends our way to grow us to be more like our Jesus. This is brought out in the next verse:

James 1:4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Dr. Warren Wiersbe said:

“The Epistle of James was written to help us understand and attain spiritual maturity (James 1:4b)… James used the word ‘perfect’ several times, a word that means ‘mature, complete’ (see James 1:4, 17, 25; 2:22; 3:2). By ‘a perfect man’ (James 3:2) James did not mean a sinless man, but rather one who is mature, balanced, grown-up.”

Charles Swindoll states:

Throughout the book, James contended that faith produces authentic deeds. In other words, if those who call themselves God’s people truly belong to Him, their lives will produce deeds or fruit. In language and themes that sound similar to Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, James rails against the hypocritical believer who says one thing but does another. For James, faith was no abstract proposition but had effects in the real world.”

We Are Either In Christ’s Kingdom,
Or In Satan’s Kingdom

James 1:5-7 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

If we are saved by faith in Christ, we wholly belong to the Kingdom of God. We have been …

Colossians 1:13-14 (ESV) … delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The Bible uses two words to describe the Christian. We are delivered from Satan’s dark domain. This is the Greek verb “ῥύομαι rhýomai, {pronounced rhoo’-om-ahee}”, which means “to be rescued”. When Jesus taught us to pray, He said we were to ask the Father:

lead us not into temptation, but DELIVER {rhýomai}
us from the Evil One
” (Matthew 6:13; Luke 11:4)

Christian, we do not belong to Satan’s kingdom any more. We have been rescued from the darkness so that we might walk with our God every moment of every day. We are “DELIVERED {rhýomai} from the coming wrath of God” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). We are “DELIVERED {rhýomai} from unreasonable and wicked people”. We are “DELIVERED {rhýomai} from every evil work” (2 Timothy 4:18). We are “DELIVERED” rhýomai} out of temptations to wickedness (2 Peter 2:9). In short, as a believer in Christ we are called to walk in His Kingdom day by day, moment by moment, knowing that we are prized and loved of God for Christ’s sake.

What a wonderful blessing this is! God is there. Jesus is with us. He has saved us. “We are not our own, but we are bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). You either belong to God, or you DON’T belong to God. You are either God’s child, or you are NOT God’s child. Make up your minds. Decide which side of the fence you are coming down on, and claim it!

James 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

To whom do you belong? If you belong to Jesus, you belong to God. If you belong to God, then even the “bad” things that come your way are in reality good, for God watches over you.

James 1:9-12 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: 10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. 11 For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. 12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

James says that Blessed is the man that endureth temptation {πειρασμός peirasmos}. If your faith is genuine, then your faith will endure the testing that God sends your way. God sends that testing because He loves you. God allows that testing, that you might be drawn to the Cross of Christ and be saved. Once saved by faith in Him, God allows the trials of life to come your way to grow you in your faith, to lead you into a moment by moment walk with God. This is what God in Christ desires for your life.

Will you come to Him? Will you take the brokenness of your life and bring it to Jesus? Oh, that you would. Oh, that you would be saved into the Kingdom of God, to be a child of God by faith in Him. In Jesus there is power for living. In God’s kingdom there is power over every evil and darkness that this world might bring. The life that God our Father wants for you is only found in Jesus. Our Lord Jesus told the Pharisees:

John 5:40 … (ESV) you refuse to come to Me that you may have life.

Jesus warns us all:

John 10:10 (ESV) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

If you have Jesus, you have life! (1 John 5:12). Do you have Jesus? Or are you, like the twelve tribes scattered abroad, just a possessor of ritual? Oh, how Jesus wants a relationship with you! I beg you, come to Him this very day! Amen and Amen!

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The Death Of Death In Christ

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1 Corinthians 15:55-57 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What Is This Thing We Call “Death”?

1 Corinthians 15:55 O death, where is thy sting?

In my news feed on Friday, July 8 2022 I read:

Prolific actor James Caan passed away late Wednesday at the age of 82, according to a statement from family members yesterday”. I first saw James Caan in a movie called El Dorado – its one of my favorite movies. Caan did quite a few movies over the years. I’ll not quote them all, because it’s quite a list. But I wanted to note the end of the article, which said: “A cause of death was not specified”. The man was 82 years old.

As a dear friend of mine said the other day,
“It’s age related”.

We don’t live forever in our current state of being – though scientists are trying hard to overcome death. In another article from Breakpoint Daily,

Harvard Medical molecular biologist David Sinclair is combining innovation in the lab with innovation in language. In a recent CNN article, one of Sinclair’s financial backers described the goal of his research as changing the definition of the word “aging.” He wants to “make aging a disease.” Sinclair claims to have successfully interrupted the aging process in mice by turning adult cells back into stem cells. … His ultimate aim, of course, is to develop anti-aging therapies for humans.

Humans do not like to think about death. Yet we shall all eventually die – become inanimate – in this current home we call our bodies. Death is a part of life. Wise King Solomon wrote, To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die ” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2). The Apostle Paul wrote, “ it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). We have learned how to extend human life by the use of drugs and medical science. But we cannot eliminate death.

Death is not what God originally intended for us, but it is a part of the Fall of Adam. God told Adam (Genesis 3:19) “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. Physical death – the cessation of life in this body – was NOT the punishment that Adam and his heirs received for disobeying God and eating the forbidden. Do you remember the command that God gave Adam:

Genesis 2:16-17 … the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

God told Adam IN THE DAY, the very day that he disobeyed and ate of the forbidden fruit THOU SHALT SURELY DIE. God was not talking about PHYSICAL death. How do we know this?

First, because God cannot make mistakes.
Hear the Scripture!

Psalm 18:30 tells us God—His way is perfect.

Proverbs 30:5 states Every word of God proves true.

Numbers 23:19 declares, God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.

Our God does not make mistakes. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure” (Psalm 147:5).

God did not tell Adam “you will eventually die”, but “in the day” that he disobeyed he would die.

If you will look at the Scripture, you will see that after Adam’s sin he went on to live a very long time. Adam lived to be 930 years old. God was not referring to PHYSICAL death as a punishment of Adam’s sin. When God ushered Adam and his family out of Eden, He did so because of the Tree of Life.

God did not design us to live forever in these bodies. As long as Adam loved God, he and his own had access to the Tree of Life. You remember, there were TWO TREES in the midst of the Garden: The Tree of Life, and the Forbidden Tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve had access to the Tree of Life as long as they walked with God. Yet when Adam sinned, he and his family were cast out of Eden to keep them from the Tree of Life.

Genesis 3:22-23 … the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23 Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden

Physical death itself is not a punishment from God. Our current bodies were meant to wear out – they were not meant to be permanent. As long as Adam and his family had access to the Tree of Life, they had life. Once Adam sinned, he and his family were restricted from the Tree of Life. Here’s the point:

Preach!: If you want access to LIFE, you must have access to GOD. There is no LIFE without GOD. ADAM DIED SPIRITUALLY the day he sinned against God, and because he was SPIRITUALLY dead, he eventually suffered PHYSICAL death.

The Tree of Life is only in Paradise, in the place where God is. (Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14). The Tree of Life is only available only to those who love the Lord. God gives life to those who love Him.

What I am saying may sound new to you, but it is Biblical truth. The Forerunner Commentary states:

The death that entered the world through Adam’s sin was not physical death. Adam was a flesh-and-blood human being, so his body was naturally subject to entropy {to gradual decline}. The fact that he was created as flesh meant that, at some point, his heart would stop, and the breath of life would leave. Even if he had lived a sinless life, he still would have died when his body ceased to function. Adam was never immortal; he needed to eat of the Tree of Life to live forever (Genesis 3:22). When Adam sinned, he immediately entered a state of spiritual—not physical—death, which contributed to the foundation of Satan’s deception that life continues after sin.”

So, what is this thing we call “Death”? It is not PHYSICAL death, but SPIRITUAL death. Death is the life lived apart from God.

Death is a life lived separate from God.

When the Bible says … Romans 5:12 (NKJV) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned

It’s not talking about PHYSICAL death, but SPIRITUAL death. It’s talking about living a physical life apart from God Who makes life.

1 Corinthians 15:56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

It is sin that brings separation from God. The sting of death is sin. It is sin that separates us from God. Sin always separates – stings – it is venomous, the bite of a viper. Sin has given us “Pride Month”, a way of life unendorsed by God, a way of life outside of God’s design. Sin has given us mass shootings. Sin has given us racism, and hatred. Sin creeps into local Churches and turns them into Peyton Places. Sin endorses evil, and twists truth.

the strength of sin is the law

Preach!: God says “Don’t do it”, and sin grows and drags us toward death. Sin is the scourge that is destroying America today. Sin is the mother demanding the right to abort her baby. Sin is the self righteous gathered in crowds, mocking the lost instead of inviting them to meet the Savior. Sin is the man who will not be a father to his child and a husband to his wife. Sin is the gossip who spreads evil as a knife spreads jam on toast. Sin is the grudge carrier. Sin is to love self more than God. Sin is to ignore the Word of God, the Scripture, in favor of the word of man. “The strength of sin is the law”. God is righteous, holy, and just. God has a standard, and anything against God’s standard causes God to reject our presence. When Adam sinned, though God clothed both Adam and Eve, they were ushered out of the Garden of Eden.

Calvary Shows Us What God Thinks Of Sin

1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We only have victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. What did Jesus do to cover our sins? The Bible says:

1 Corinthians 15:3 …. Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

Christ died for our sins. The word Christ means “The Chosen One”. We as sinners could not pay for our sins. We are born SPIRITUALLY dead. We enter this life enslaved to sin. A sinner cannot pay for sinners.

But God can.

God sent His Son Jesus into this world to be the Christ, the Chosen One to make payment for our sins. The Bible declares:

Romans 3:25 {It is Jesus Christ Who} God {the Father} set forth to be a propitiation {a covering} through faith in His Blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins …

God the Son willingly became Man, Perfect Man, to make payment for our sins. Jesus spoke of His death saying,

Matthew 26:28 … This is My Blood of the New {Covenant}, which is shed for the remission of sins …

Sin is no trifle, no small thing. Sin is a creature with death as its sting. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The strength of sin is the Law. “Sin worked death in me by that which is good {the Law}” (Romans 7:13). Sin caused God the Father to “deliver” His Son unto judgment for us:

Romans 4:24 {Jesus} was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For {God the Father} has made {Jesus} to be sin for us, Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

Jesus died a horrible death on the Cross for our sins. Every evil that we did or would do was put on His soul, so much so that He cried out in anguish. My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1). Our sins caused His death. And yet, Jesus willingly went to the Cross for our sins. The Scripture says:

Galatians 1:4 {Jesus Christ} gave Himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:

Jesus did not die for us that we might continue in sin, but died for us to BRING US TO GOD. We are moved from a state of SPIRITUAL DEATH to a state of SPIRITUAL LIFE when we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We are no longer in the embrace of the Curse.

Galatians 3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

Jesus Christ died for your sins and mine. When we receive Him as He is, our sins are forgiven. Jesus Christ offered ONE SACRIFICE for sins FOREVER (Hebrews 10:12). Why did He do this?

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

Jesus did not just die on Calvary to get us into Heaven. Jesus died on Calvary so that He might get Heaven into us! He gave His life to BRING US TO GOD.

Jesus changes the life that He saves. Jesus “loves us, and WASHES us from OUR SINS IN HIS OWN BLOOD, making us KINGS and PRIESTS unto God and His Father” (Revelation 1:5-6). We are moved from darkness to light when we receive Jesus as Savior. We are changed for sinner apart from God to Child of God bound to God when we receive Jesus as Savior. The Grace of God changes us, and works in us.

When You See Jesus, He Changes You FOREVER

1 Corinthians 15:8-10 And last of all {Jesus} was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

Before the Apostle Paul met Jesus, he was known as “Saul”, a persecutor of the Church. But meeting Jesus on the Damascus Road, Saul became Paul, and the Persecutor became an Apostle. The Apostle said by the grace of God I am what I am. Where God’s Grace is, there is changed life. Where salvation is, there Jesus IS LORD.

Where Grace is, the Holy Spirit is. The Bible says that, once we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, God the Holy Spirit comes to us. The Scripture says,

Romans 8:9 … if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

How can you know that you are saved? Just as Paul said,

I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me

Where Grace is, there will be evidence. Where the Spirit of God is, there will be evidence. The Bible says that thefruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance …” (Galatians 5:22-23). You are not a Christian because YOU say so. You are a Christian because the SPIRIT OF GOD IS IN YOU, and the output of your life is the fruit of the Spirit.

You are to love, not hate. You are to willingly obey the Savior Who is your Lord. Jesus said, I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him Who sent Me.” (John 6:38). Jesus said, I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46). Jesus said, I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37).

If you are SAVED, dear professing Christian, then the OUTPUT of your LIFE will be LOVE. You will do what Jesus said because you LOVE Jesus. Jesus said,

John 14:15 If you love Me, KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS.

John 15:10 If you KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS, you shall abide in My love …

The Christian follows the Lord in love. You cannot be right with God if you are not loving even your greatest enemy. What did Jesus command? Hear His Words:

Matthew 5:23-24 (ESV) … if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

You cannot carry a grudge, and uphold the Cross of Christ. You must love. You MUST love. You WILL love, because the Spirit will move you to it. Again we read:

Matthew 5:43-45 (ESV) … You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

There is not a person in this Church or under the sound of my voice that is not broken. We come to Church because we are broken. But we gather together as a Church welcoming the broken. We forgive offenses quickly, because God Who indwells us demands that we do so. We cannot sin and walk with God. Jesus said:

Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV) For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

The Cross Defeats Death, That Is, Separation From God

1 Corinthians 15:20-26 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

Those who have given themselves to God by faith
in Christ need not fear death.
Jesus Christ is the death of Death.

If you are in Spiritual Death you should fear Physical Death. If you live WITHOUT Christ on this earth, you will go to a place where death – separation from God – forever is. Those who refuse to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior “will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, AWAY FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD and from the glory of His might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). This is what hell is. Hell is where God forever is NOT. Oh, dear friend, do not put off coming to the Lord Jesus. For the Christ follower “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). To die physically for those IN JESUS is to have a THIRD BIRTH, not a death. Our first birth was when we entered this world through our mother. Our second birth was when we were “born again” of the Spirit. But dear Christian, physical death to us is not a separation, but a glad reunion day. Absent from this body, I will be present with the Lord. “Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?”. Jesus has defeated Spiritual Death. Jesus has defeated Physical Death. Will you not come to Him without delay this very day? May God the Holy Spirit bring you to to Christ the very moment. Amen and Amen!

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God Is With His People

Photo by Anna Shvets: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-people-reaching-each-other-s-hands-4672717/

God Is With His People

Last Sunday we started in the Book of Nehemiah. To review, Nehemiah and Ezra were considered one book by Israel and by Judaism. Ezra tells the story of the first return of Israel from exile to Jerusalem. Ezra and Zerubbabel led a team to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, and to introduce Israel to the Law of God once more. After Ezra’s team had been in Jerusalem 12 years or so, some of the exiles returned to the winter palace of the Persian King Artaxerxes, and met the Cupbearer (the Butler) of the King named Nehemiah. These exiles told Nehemiah that the walls of Jerusalem were down, and its gates burned with fire.

So Nehemiah prayed.

If you want to be used of God, you cannot be in bondage. The reason God gave us who are Gentiles the Old Testament is to show us that God can only use a liberated people. When Israel was in bondage to Egypt, God raised up Moses to go to Pharaoh, demanding:

Exodus 5:1 (ESV) “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’”

God’s people are not to be bound to anyone or anything but the Lord Who loves them. God rescues us from the bondage of sin and death, the bondage of fear:

Romans 8:15 (ESV) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

We are bound to God. When we were children (of Adam), we were in bondage under the elements of the world” (Galatians 4:3). As Christ’s children we are no longer to be bound by the lost world. We are not to be bound by sin. The Bible asks –

Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

God frees His people from the negatives of this world so that we can serve Him. We are:

1 Corinthians 6:20 … bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

God is the strength of my heart, and my Portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). “O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living” (Psalm 142:5).

Nehemiah Cannot Free Himself – But God Can

So Nehemiah prayed – asking God to make a way. Then Nehemiah did his job. We read:

Nehemiah 2:1-2 And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been before time sad in his presence. 2 Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,

Let’s look at it came to pass in the month Nisan. When we were in Nehemiah chapter one, we read:

Nehemiah 1:1 … And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,

The month Chisleu(Hebrew Chislev) is equivalent to our November to December of our calendar. The messengers came to Nehemiah in the wintertime. But in chapter two we see we are in the month Nisan, which is equivalent to April in our calendar. We learn from this that Nehemiah not only prayed to God when he first met the messengers, but that he prayed for approximately five months before bringing up anything to the King. We are told in:

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please {God}: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

God wants a daily intimate relationship with those whom He has saved. He wants us to diligently seek him. Nehemiah sought out God in prayer daily, sharing his heart and his hurt, and waited on God. The Scripture says:

Psalm 37:9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.

Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

In America, we are conditioned to want things right away. This hurts the American Christian.

We want microwave foods, streaming service, and immediate gratification. But God wants us to wait upon Him, to seek His face, to glorify Him in all that we do. For five months Nehemiah served the King and waited on God. We read,I had not been before time sad in {the King’s} presence. Nehemiah played the hypocrite, masking his anguish while he waited on God. But today his mask slips. The King sees his sorrow, and says to Nehemiah:

Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart

Word Study: Why is your heart filled with sorrow? Nehemiah says, I was very sore afraid, rāḇâ yārē’ literally extremely afraid”. Nehemiah felt the cold grip of fear on his heart. If the King was unhappy with his cupbearer, he could easily get rid of him and get another. Nehemiah replies:

Nehemiah 2:3 And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever

Nehemiah wants to let the King know that his sorrow is not with his job. He is blessed to be working for the King. Nehemiah continues:

Nehemiah 2:3 … why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulcher, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?

Let’s consider these words, and realize how brave it is of Nehemiah to say these words to the King. The reason the city of Jerusalem is in such bad shape is because the Persian Army (and this is a Persian King) destroyed it. But Nehemiah will not be controlled with fear. God says:

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV) “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”,

When I was growing up my mama used to say, “Starve a cold, feed a fever”. You’ve probably heard this yourself. Here’s one we need to use as Christians.

Starve fear, feed your faith”

Fear has its proper place when it protects us from bad things. I think its fine to fear spiders, snakes, great heights, and excessive speed on the highway. I think we should “Fear the Lord” in the sense of respecting Him as our Lord (see Proverbs 1:7; Psalm 111:10). But fear should never dictate your faith. Nehemiah tells the King what is bothering him. And the King replies:

Nehemiah 2:4 … Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request?

The King asks Nehemiah, “What do you want? What can I do for you?” Rather than reply immediately, we read:

Nehemiah 2:4 … So I prayed to the God of heaven.

Nehemiah talked to the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (1 Ti