Dynamic Realities of the Christian Life
DYNAMIC REALITIES OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
By Dr. Donald W. Ekstrand
As is the case with most of my studies, this study was written to inspire believers to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Due to the fact there is so much confusion and erroneous thinking in the Christian world, I felt it was necessary to essentially address the most perplexing issues of the Christian life. When believers insist on rectifying divine truth with fallen human thinking, ultimately, they will employ untruth in their theology and let it be an integral part of their faith.
In order to understand what God has revealed to us in His Word, it is important that one have a contextual understanding of Divine Truth — without it, one can easily misinterpret what Scripture says. This has been the main problem for the believing world all the way back to the time of Moses — which essentially was about 3500 years ago.
I would like to dedicate this study to two people in particular who have played a very important role in managing my website and publishing my writings for more then ten years — my nephew Paul Ekstrand, who has his own website business in California, has both developed and managed my website. . . and my friend Matt Olsen, the owner of Whitten Printers here in Phoenix, who has published well over a thousand different books for me. In addition to Paul and Matt, I also want to dedicate this study to all of My Family Relatives, both young children and old adults.
As we begin this study, let me first draw your attention to the fact that numerous words, phrases and statements have been italicized, underlined and emboldened, and this was done to give greater emphasis to those words, phrases and sentences; thus accentuating what is stated, so read them accordingly. You’ll also notice, I list a number of biblical references after certain statements that help give definition to what has just been stated; since this is a “theological study on several extremely important doctrines,” don’t just make this study a casual read, but take the time to reflect upon the various passages that have also been listed. If you need to make it a one or two month study, then by all means do so… but do study it… don’t simply read it. You might humbly begin your study each day with the words of the psalmists: “Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being… Teach me Thy way, O Lord, and I will walk in Thy truth… Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Thy law” (cf. Ps 51:6; 86:11;119:18). Following is a Table of Contents to help give definition to the various topics that are covered in this study — the contents are as follows:
*Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 3
*Fallen Thinking vs. Divine Thinking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 10
*The Resultant Effect of True Faith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 15
*Overcoming Spiritual Depression . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 24
*The Essence of Man’s Fallen Thinking . . . . . . . . . . .. . p. 36
*The Essence of True Repentance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 40
*Faith and Repentance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 48
*Temptation Precedes Repentance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 56
*The Flesh and the Spirit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 66
*God’s Eternal Purpose for Humanity . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 86
*Genuine Repentance Results in Worship . . . . . . . . . p. 94
*The Transformation of Our Lives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 110
*The Significance of Faith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 119
*The Sovereignty of God and His Grace . . . . . . . . . . . p. 125
*In Closing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 136
Beloved, essentially, it has now been almost 50 years since I committed my life to Christ and began serving in ministry. At the outset I had the privilege of managing a Jr. High Ministry, of which some of you were actually a part. After a couple of years of serving in that ministry, I then felt the need to be “seminary trained,” because the foundation of my faith wasn’t nearly as solid as I knew it needed to be. It was actually the words of James (the brother of Jesus) who motivated me to go to seminary; he said, “Let not many of you become teachers, because you will incur a stricter judgment” (Jam 3:1); obviously, that was a very sobering statement to me, and still is. The need to know precisely what Scripture teaches became extremely important to me; to not properly interpret what God’s divine revelation says was simply unacceptable to me. Though God had been at work in my life since I was a little child, and permitted me to experience some very painful nega-tives, I had constantly questioned things in life because of my fallen nature — in short, it was my lack of understanding the dynamic realities of the Christian life that were always perplexing to me, so being seminary trained was an absolute for me… it not only opened my eyes to the integrity of divine truth, it gave me the assurance of faith that was of abso-lute importance to me. It should be obvious to every believer — growing in faith is not a quick easy trip that happens in just a few years; essentially it is a life-long process; fur- thermore, it requires a humble heart, and a desire to know, understand and believe divine truth (cf. 1 Pet 2:2; 1 Cor 3:2; 14:20; Eph 4:11-24; Heb 12:1-11; 2 Pet 3:18). Now that I’m almost 77 yrs of age, God is still exposing me to divine realities, and giving me the grace to share them with others; and this I have done now for 18 years by teaching in colleges & universities, writings, publishing, and my website ministry (which gets between 1500 and 1700 hits a day). Keep in mind, God has used some very painful trials and tribulations to build my faith (cf. Jn 16:33; Acts 14:22)… in so doing that has required a lot of humility, study and prayer. Again, divine knowledge isn’t just a simplistic little precept that is easily understood; the truth is, life is a very sober reality that requires a lot of prayer and reflection (that should make sense to you as you read this study). My prayer is that you will find this study a great encouragement to your faith.
Following is a study on the believer’s relationship with God and how things operate in his life. Because most believers question so much of what goes on in their lives, I felt it was important to essentially expand upon those dynamic realities that are a significant part of the Christian life, and those elements that keep us in harmony with Christ. With the forgoing in mind, let’s begin by first giving definition to “genuine repentance,” because without repentance one can neither have relationship or fellowship with God. According to Scripture repentance has to do with “a change of mind”… “a reversal of thought”… “a product of Genuine Faith”… without which one would not experience the manifestation of God’s grace in his life. Furthermore, without faith there is no such thing as repentance, and without repentance there is no such thing as true genuine faith. So biblically speaking, repentance refers to a thorough turning from self to God — thus repentance occurs in one’s life when a radical turning to God takes place (i.e., when true genuine faith exists in one’s life); therefore, repentance is an experience in which God is rightfully recognized as “the most important fact” of one’s existence. Remember the words of Paul, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom 11:36); i.e., God is the source, the sustainer, and the rightful end of everything that exists; by the way, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek… yet fallen man insists on running his own life, and walking in the dark — “he loves the darkness & hates the light because his deeds are evil;” i.e., they do not coincide with divine truth (Jn 3:19); keep in mind, those are the words of God Himself, and the emboldened words are emphatic in Greek. In this study, you will notice that I draw attention to numerous words that are “absolutely em-phatic” in Scripture… so to make light of them is to seriously reject divine truth. There-fore, let me suggest to you that you humbly contemplate exactly what God’s Word says. Again, the reality is this: The transcendent eternal God of creation is the reason for all things; by definition the Almighty is self-contained… is the source of all that exists… and is the active agent in sustaining and controlling all that exists (cf. Col 1:16-17). God Himself is the Object for which everything has been created; since everything is designed to bring glory to an incredibly good, great and gracious God, let it be so in your life — obviously, if God was a selfish corrupt person like Satan, that would be one thing; but He possesses absolutely no evil or junk! It is just corrupt, diabolical thinking that completely judges God wrongly, and makes Him out to be an ugly selfish person! Though God is definitely a “self-centered person,” His self-centeredness is extremely loving; i.e., supra-passionate and caring for all creatures to the point of actually dying for fallen man and making him one of His children, and blessing him for all eternity, and letting him rule with Him!!! So “God’s self-centeredness” does not at all correlate with “man’s self-centeredness” — such are complete opposites; one is disgustingly awful & the other is incredibly wonder-ful. Beloved, the problem with fallen human beings is that they cannot fathom the won-derfulness of God. Because fallen man elevates himself to be a far greater creature than he really is, he makes some judgments that not only distort reason, but are completely il-logcal. For instance, nothing could be more foolish then for fallen man to think that God actually regards little finite creatures as His consultants to instruct Him on what to do. Said the Lord to Job: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:2, 4). Later on the Lord said to the nation of Israel: “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? Behold, the nations of the world are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales… All the nations of the world are as nothing before God; they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless… He it is who reduces rulers to nothing… Do you not know that God’s understanding is inscrutable?” (i.e., totally beyond human understanding – cf. Is 40:13-18, 23, 28); so God’s wisdom completely transcends human thinking. Numerous times down through the ages God let man know that his wisdom is very remedial, and that the wisdom of God is completely unparalleled when comparing it with man’s wisdom, or that of the angelic world… that it transcends the totality of all other wisdom — for the lack of a better way to explain it, God’s wisdom is trillions of times greater than the sum-total of all other wisdom; again, they are com-pletely incomparable. Remember, God dealt with this issue over and over again down through the ages, because “man frequently judged God wrongly!” As the Lord said to Isaiah, the greatest prophet in the ancient world: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways… For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts… just as rain and snow come down from heaven to furnish seed to the sower & bread to the eater, so shall My words that go forth from My mouth, accomplish what I desire” (Is 55:8-11). Beloved, that should not be a difficult construct for you to embrace, because God is trillions of times greater & smarter than we are (actually, the numbers are endless — remember, God is infinite, and we are finite; thus there is no way to even compare the two). By the way, as long as man insists on judging God with human thinking, he will radically make erron-eous deductions and completely misjudge God. So the issue is this: can you not see God for who He really is (a wonderful glorious God), rather than a reckless unknowable, in-comprehensive God who doesn’t fully understand us or sympathize with us?
As believers, we need to be ever mindful of the absolute goodness of God, because when we question His goodness we really struggle with our faith… yet God even understands that and patiently waits for us to align our thinking with divine truth — that essentially is what it means to grow in our faith, and such will continue throughout our entire life here on earth (we don’t completely grow in our faith in ten years, and then no longer struggle with our flesh). To think something to the contrary is to completely misunderstand the work of God in our lives. By the way, we all groan at times because of our sinfulness; there are moments when it actually overwhelms us and causes a lot of consternation in our soul. The premiere problem for the vast majority of believers is that they are very self-absorbed rather than Christ-absorbed, and therein lies the problem. We must con-stantly focus on Christ and not ourselves, and do so with the understanding that God loves us unconditionally! Because we are fleshly creatures (saved, yes, but fleshly creatures nonetheless), the premiere problem for fallen believers is that we really struggles in life and oftentimes judge God wrongly; sense man cannot reconcile all that goes on in his life, he questions God and even gets angry with Him — when negatives become excessive in our lives our flesh oftentimes controls our thinking, it is then that we become frustrated and question God; remember, that’s how our flesh operates. Some of you might have somewhat misinterpreted what I just said — remember, your flesh is grossly evil and dwells in your inner-core, and is by no means dead! and neither does it remain silent in your life just because you’re a believer! When negatives enter into our lives, our flesh responds, and therein is the rub; it is not at all a pleasant moment for us as believers, because it is attacking the Spirit who dwells within us (cf. Gal 5:17); again, that’s no joy- ride. Hopefully, the foregoing makes sense to you, because that defines reality in the believer’s inner-core. Though the flesh is the absolute ruler in the life of the unbeliever, it has a very strong presence in the life of the believer; though it doesn’t rule in our lives as believers, it oftentimes causes great consternation in our souls. So what do you think God thinks when we cave in to our flesh when we experience negatives? Keep in mind, God is not an unvigilant, narrow-minded, uncaring God who is extremely intolerant of us when we stumble and question Him and judge Him wrongly; beloved, God doesn’t bash us around because He finds us disgusting creatures (such is completely contrary to who God is, and how He responds to us as His children — remember, “when we came into existance in this world, we entered it as fallen, sinful, self-centered creatures; not as wonderful, glorious, beautiful creatures!” The main reason we don’t fully understand God and divine wisdom, is that the goodness of God and divine thinking are completely incomprehensible to fallen thinking (divine thinking & human thinking are completely contrary to each other). Think about it, here are some sinful people God chose to be His children, yet God did not choose to instantaneously transform them into the image of His Son; instead, He chose to “begin the process of transforming them into His image over the entire life-time they spend in this fallen world (i.e., 50, 60, 70 years), and not fully transform them until they actually enter into the eternal state in heaven.” With that in mind, it should be clear that we are not yet wonderful creatures without any problems or shortcomings — the amazing thing is, God loved us in spite of the fact that we were chil-dren of the devil (are you listening?); He loved and cared for us so much that He died for us!!! And now He is doing a transforming work in our lives here in this sinful world in which we live. Remember, if Christ died for you as a horrifically fallen sinful creature, who was actually a child of the devil, how can you minimize His love for you, and make it a very limited rigid love? Not even our earthly parents were that unloving. Again, God could have transformed us instantaneously, but that is not what He chose to do. I know that is a heavy construct for some of you to accept (because you never heard it before), but that is what this life here on earth is all about for believers. If you need to give very serious consideration to this subject, please do so, because it defines the Christian life.
Beloved, like every other fallen creature whoever lived in our world, we are no where close to fully reflecting the image of Christ; remember, we are in the early process of being transformed; in so doing we are to personally die to our sins in order to ultimately become like Christ, and that’s no walk in the park! As long as we live in this “corrupt world” (i.e., planet earth), we are really going to struggle, and that is all in accord with the will of God; contrary to what some may think, God is the one who determines the life we are experiencing; this was all a part of His eternal plan in eternity past (cf. Ps 139: 16; Ecc 11:5; Is 46:9-11). God chose to transform us through a process that involves being subjected to numerous trials, temptations & tribulations, and those things He has asked us to wrestle with; incidentally, I cover this issue in far greater detail later in this study; as such, at this point simply take the time to reflect upon the longevity of the work God has chosen to do in our lives (i.e., a whole lifetime of affliction, trials & difficulties). Now though it is a work that involves a lot of suffering (cf. 1 Pet 2:21; 4:1), it is not so grievous that our entire transformation is a horrible experience. Though we as believers may suf-fer 25% of the time, 75% of the time we may not suffer (you must accept reality for what it really is). Keep in mind, as young children life was actually a pretty pleasant experi-ence, but as we have grown older you’ll notice “God has now subjected us to numerous negatives wherein we must fight the good fight of faith” — no longer does our life simply consist of a bunch of positives; as such, God now wants us to wrestle with a number of negatives. With that in mind, remember God understands our fallenness, our sinfulness, our waywardness, our fleshly nature, the shallowness of our faith, and every shortcoming we have!!! We are no where close to being glorious creatures; such is not even possible for creatures who possess a sinful fallen nature. Beloved, remember we are not glorious men & women with great faith (we don’t walk on water!), we are simply fallen creatures with faith in a great God! That’s precisely why we must constantly focus on Christ and not on ourselves in life, because a self-focus is a troubling focus, because we don’t come close to measuring up to God’s standards; though some people fool themselves and claim to be far greater then they are, they are simply letting deceitfulness and arrogance rule in their hearts and minds (and where there is arrogance, there is “no grace” (cf. Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5); and without God’s “undeserved favor” (i.e., grace) we are going to be very remedial creatures in this life… so either we humbly focus on Christ, or we will proudly focus on ourselves, and in so doing we will end up making a mess of our lives; Christ alone is the answer to life. Again, God sympathizes with our weaknesses and is mindful of the totality of everything that exists within us! Again, we’ll cover this is far more detail later in this study.
Now as believers, either we are going to ultimately embrace & believe what God says, or we are going to argue our way out of believing what He says, simply because it does not coincide with fallen human thinking. Beloved, to somehow think that our flesh doesn’t have a prominent presence in our lives is complete lunacy, because it has an extremely strong presence in our lives. The reason we all argue with God is that our flesh is con-stantly arguing against divine truth (Gal 5:17), and due to the fact that we don’t have a full understanding of divine reality (cf. Is 55:8-9), we frequently cave into our flesh. Thus, the question ultimately is this: Are we going to reject divine truth because we can’t reconcile it or fully understand it? Or are we going to humbly acknowledge our fallenness and our sinfulness and believe what God says? Obviously as finite fallen creatures we have very remedial minds… to think that we don’t is to be very ignorant or very arrogant; keep in mind, the unbelieving world is ruled by arrogance. Remember the words of the Lord to the Jewish people through the prophet Isaiah, “I am GOD, there is no other… there is no one like Me… I have declared the end from the beginning… My purpose will be estab-lished and I will accomplish all My good pleasure. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass… as I have planned things, so shall they be” (Is 46:9-11; 14:24; 37:26). Though those words define reality, many believers even question those words and are unwilling to apply them to the God of their faith — apparently, it just doesn’t seem reasonable to them, thus they are inclined to argue to the contrary. You’ll notice, if one is going to embrace divine truth, he must humble himself before God, because without humility God will not dis-close divine truth to him (cf. Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5) — so what is the message? Man is not capable in and of himself of thinking thoughts that transcend human thinking; nevertheless, if he will humble himself before God, God will give him the grace to understand things he would never understand with his fallen mind. So ultimately the issue is this — either we respect God for who He is (and without humbling ourselves we won’t do that), or we are going to be very remedial disoriented creatures. Remember, GOD is the eternal, infinite, omniscient, omnipotent God of all creation — to not believe that is to judge God wrongly and make oneself out to be far smarter than he really is; think about it, when we minimize God and maximize ourselves, we end up embracing untruth rather than truth. Remember the words of Paul: “To reject divine truth is to suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within him, because God has made it evident to him” (cf. Rom 1:18-19). By the way, that word “evident” is emphatic in Greek. So to argue to the contrary is very disconcerting, especially for a believer… if that defines you, humble yourself before God and take the time to study divine truth.
The problem with fallen man is that he has been completely duped by Satan, to the point that he makes judgments about himself that do not at all coincide with universal truth; remember, fallen man in the western world now thinks he has great wisdom because he is now a college graduate (as if wisdom is a correlative of knowledge, which it is not); the reality is, he is almost completely lacking in wisdom (all one needs to do is listen to the nonsensical thinking of many people in the political realm… many of them do not even have knowledge let alone wisdom; as such they reflect a level of stupidity that is that is nothing but sheer arrogance — how a person can make a claim and not know the depth of the pros and cons of an issue is beyond stupid; it is simply generic evilness; if honesty, integrity and transparency does not characterize one’s thoughts, he should not even be permitted to speak; deception is no joking matter). Beloved, the same construct can be applied to spiritual issues — we don’t have the option of distorting divine truth. Incidentally, there have been countless philosophers down through the ages (especially in the ancient Greek world — Socrates, Plato and Aristotle to name a few — who sought to know “truth”), and these men actually defined reality very wisely; yet the majority of fallen creatures here in the western world today actually argue to the contrary (they are not men & women of wisdom; instead they are men & women who seriously lack wisdom). As incredible as it may seem, the educated world has been completely duped by Satan; as most of you know, leftist ideologists have actually set “limitations” on what can be taught in public arena — their thinking is nothing but innate bias; yet here we are today no longer living in “the Land of the Free!” So the diabolical ruler of our world (i.e., Satan) essentially has instructed his students to believe that they are now the world’s most brilliant people, when in fact they have absolutely distorted reality and rejected the truth (Rom 1:18-32); remember, one can have knowledge, but that does not in the slightest mean one’s thinking is grounded in the truth or that it possesses wisdom; interestingly enough, supra-leftist ideologists here in America today now claim to be the smartest people on the planet, yet they completely deny divine reality without any evidence whatsoever (i.e., they deny the source of all that exists); remember, “God has given arrogant fallen man over to a depraved mind!” (cf. Rom 1:28ff). Now with all of the foregoing in mind, it is important to remember that God set the stage for the world in which Christ entered — it was not a matter of sheer happenstance. God had Alexander the Great conquer the entire western world in the 3rd century BC… and make the Greek language the premiere language of the western world (including the nation of Israel), and make Greek philosophy a significant element for human thinking (by the way, Greek thinking back during the time of Christ was very logical & possessed a high degree of wisdom; Christ even used certain aspects of it to share divine truth). The problem with arrogant people is that they completely misinterpret reality and argue to the contrary; which is sheer lunacy (again cf. Rom 1:18ff). By the way, the ancient Koine Greek language (i.e., the Greek language that was com-monly spoken and written in eastern Mediterranean countries in the Hellenistic and Roman periods) is the most definitive language that has ever existed; that’s why God chose it to reveal His self-revelation of divine truth to the world. It is the nonsensical reasoning of those who do not understand Koine Greek, that make brass diabolical state-ments and embrace “untruth.”
Now regarding the believing world, many professing Christians today have begun to rely on what their denominational affiliation believes, their own feelings, Christian tradition, the opinions of men, and their own life experiences. Thus the gospel message has been reduced in much of the Christian world to the following ideas: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life… He wants to forgive you of all your sins… and come into your life and make you the person He wants you to be… and after you die take you to heaven to be with Him forever” (incidentally, some Christians don’t even believe the foregoing). Obviously those are wonderful positive aspects of the salvation message, but they fail to mention a number of other significant truths, which are also the foundation of the gospel message. Essentially they include the following: one must approach God with a humble heart and acknowledge his own sinfulness and completely repent of it… one must place his trust in Jesus Christ alone and His redemptive work on the cross… one must turn from the self-life and turn to the God-life… one must understand that one is saved by grace alone, and not at all the work of fallen men… one must understand that the Christian life consists of a lot of negatives, trials and tribulations… and one must believe in God’s self-revelation to man-kind (i.e., Scripture; God’s Word) — much of the foregoing will be expanded upon in this study. Before you proceed on, take the time to read the following passages (cf. Mt 10:38-39; 16:24-26; Lk 14:26-28; 17:19; Jn 8:12, 31; 14:6; 16:33; Acts 14:22; Heb 11:6). The reality is, Christians in America today are increasingly compromis- ing the truths of Scripture — they have a tendency to minimize those issues they are not completely comfortable with or able to justify with their thinking, and reject other issues that run contrary to their feelings; as such, spiritually speaking they are traversing a very slippery slope. Therefore it is no wonder that most people in the Christian world have a very shallow faith… that their lives lack a spiritual focus, and that their hearts become increasingly discouraged when trials, tribulation and temptations enter into their lives (which incidentally is “the proving grounds of faith;” i.e., the developmental grounds of one’s faith (cf. Jn 16:33; Jam 1:2-3; 1 Pet 1:6-9, 13; 4:12-13, 17-18). Christians cannot compromise the teachings of Scripture, and expect to experience the joy of God’s presence in their lives; that would be akin to a chef leaving several key elements out of a recipe, and expecting it to be an absolutely delicious meal. The reality is, when we misunderstand and misinterpret the fullness of the gospel message, either by taking away from it or adding to it, we pervert the gospel; therefore, as believers we must make sure that what we believe coincides with divine truth, and not simply embrace leftist ideological think- ing that expresses it this way: “What is true for you may not be true to me; and what is true for me may not be true for you!” Once again, here’s the left making a claim that “there’s no such thing as absolute truth” (in other words, “truth is relative;” and that is completely contrary to divine reality). Beloved, I am not at all saying that all of the foregoing is easy to understand or embrace (but embrace it we must); remember, God Himself is the author of divine truth, and He expresses it to the humble (it is not at all the product of human thinking), so humble yourself before the Lord and contemplate divine truth as it is expressed in His Word (i.e., God’s self-revelation to mankind). The premiere reason why many in the Christian world reject some of what Scripture teaches is that they are seriously lacking in humility (i.e., they don’t see themselves for who they really are — fallen sinful creatures; though possibly saved, they are still fallen creatures nonetheless). If one will humble himself, God will minister truth to his mind and heart; conversely, if one will not humble himself, he will not experience it (cf. Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5). Beloved, that is an extremely significant truth… because if God doesn’t communicate divine truth to our hearts and minds, we would never come to know it! Again, we don’t come to a knowledge of the truth with human thinking; that is not at all possible; humility is absolutely essential for God’s people — pride is an absolute killer spiritually).
Obviously, when man walks in untruth (i.e., when he walks in the dark), he fails to exper-ience the joy of divine truth and divine light; because God completely withholds it from him. The reality is, it is absolutely essential that one sees God for who He really is, and sees himself for who he really is; those two constructs are the very foundation of reality (take the time to read that sentence a couple of times because it defines the most import-ant truths that you must embrace). If this is a questionable construct for you, it might be helpful for you to study these two issues in depth, because it is absolutely essential that you see God for who He truly is, and that you see yourself for who you truly are (remem-ber, what is IS, and what is not IS NOT) — this has nothing to do with one’s “opinion!” Yet opinions seem to dominate what many in the Christian world believe). Beloved, if these two didactics do not reflect reality in your life, you will oftentimes find yourself placing a greater premium on fallen thinking than on divine thinking; as such you will frequently walk in the dark (i.e., you will not walk with Christ and the Holy Spirit in life, because your thinking and your life will not coincide with God’s will). Beloved, that is exactly how the entire unbelieving world lives; they simply walk in the dark. Obviously the foregoing paragraphs carry some very poignant truths, so give very careful consider-ation to what they state.
FALLEN THINKING vs. DIVINE THINKING
Because fallen man sees himself as a reasonably good creature (by the way, he can only make such a claim relatively speaking), he argues vehemently against divine truth. It is only when the Holy Spirit works in a man’s heart and exposes him for who he really is, that man humbly acknowledges his waywardness and repents to God. In spite of man’s corrupt inner-core, the majority of human beings refuse to admit their innate sinfulness (i.e., that they are completely sinful creatures; not good, wonderful creatures). In order to understand the absolute fallenness of man, all one must do is look at this diabolical world in which we live, and start accepting reality for what it is — the truth is, this world is horrifically corrupt and filled with hate and lying and cheating and deception and self-centeredness and arrogance and perverse behavior and strife and disputes and envying and lust and selfishness and anger and steeling and war and death (by the way, many family members don’t even get along with each other in this world — down through the centuries, many family members have actually killed other family members… many in-dividuals who occupied the thrown in certain countries, actually killed their brothers for fear they would killed by them and take over the thrown; this was not that unusual in the ancient world). The reality is, most people don’t see themselves as actually being contributors to the discrepancies that exist between themselves and others; they simply blame everyone else in life. Beloved, I’m not only talking about the inner-core of the unbeliever, I’m also talking about the inner-core of the believer (which includes you, me, and all other Christians); keep in mind, none of us fully understand the depth of our sinfulness, because our flesh has an extremely poignant presence in our lives (thus, we are all victims of it). My mentor in ministry (Guy Davidson) was a man of great faith, and a tremendous leader in the church (so it was understandable why Grace Community Church grew into such a large church here in Arizona — it was viewed as one of the top one hundred churches in America back around 1980; over 5,500 people attended Grace on Sunday mornings); nevertheless, Guy underwent a lot of abuse at times by some on his staff and some on the church board — obviously, that was always troubling to me as well; finally, Guy stepped down and joined Franklin Graham in his worldwide ministry. Little did I know back then, that I would be abused over and over again in my ministry. Frustrating? Absolutely! Very frustrating! Yet, what are you going to do? Challenge all the egocentric people who think they are the know-it-alls? To take such an initiative wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans, because mankind is a very stubborn self-centered creature. Therefore, you simply have to live with all that junk — incidentally, I never dreamed I would be subjected to that kind of stuff myself, but that is what occurred. By the way, the vast majority of leaders in Scripture were continually abused by the masses (including men like David and the apostle Paul); take the time to study it if you don’t believe that. Remember, every thought and every act that does not coincide with God’s will is “sin” (i.e., “it misses the mark;” that’s how God defines sin, it is not simply some overt evil as most people think. Keep in mind, studies show that 80% of all the thoughts of human beings are “negative;” very few thoughts are “positive.” This is why the apostle Paul said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2); conversely, he said to the Colossians, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col 3:2) — obviously, that is an incredible chal-lenge; but that is the war-path that God has so willed for us to travel on… remember, “as a man thinks within himself so is he” (cf. Prov 23:7). If the foregoing is a perplexing reality to you, take the time to study this issue at length with humility and great sincerity, because you are being self-deceived if you do not agree with it. Remember, as believers each of us will constantly be addressing the issue of sin until we enter into the eternal state… at which time God will then remove our sinful-flesh from us, and give us an absolutely per-fect glorified body; and never again will sin (i.e., contrary thinking) be an issue in our lives. As a believer, to me that construct is very difficult to fathom, especially after a life-long journey in this absolutely corrupt world — the truth is, I can’t wait for the day when my mind no longer is filled with worldly trash, despair, and frustration — I can’t imagine what it is going to be like when my mind is in absolute peace (cf. Rev 21:1-4; 7:15-17).
Is it any wonder why our eternal hope is to dominate our thinking and our lives as we walk in this world? Let me help give definition to that construct — imagine if you will living in a “garbage dump” that is filthy and rotten and stinks with a disgusting smell, enclosed in a piece of property that one cannot exit from… yet, as incredible as it may sound, this individual has ultimately been promised deliverance in the not too distant future from the corrupt world in which he lives, and that will miraculously involve his receiving a completely new immortal body, as well as seeing all of his friends again who had died over the years, and actually receive a beautiful palace in which to live that is absolutely stunning. Now for him to try and change the absolute junk world in which he lives, nothing he does will accomplish that goal. So with that in mind, how can his glorious future not be an integral part of his life? Why would he interpret such a reality as a distant dream that is simply unfathomable and difficult to accept? In so doing, why would he place all of his hope on the disgusting world in which he lives, where tribula- tion, pain and death are absolute realities? As the apostle Paul states, “All of creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together… that even we as believers groan within ourselves (those words are emphatic in Greek; keep in mind, it is only young bucks who do not yet fully embrace this truth; yet in time they will also do so) waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in ‘HOPE’ (that is also emphatic) we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance (that word is also emphatic in Greek) we wait eagerly for it!” (cf. Rom 8:22-25; 7:24; 2 Cor 5: 1-7; Gal 5:5; Titus 3:7; Heb 11:1). Now take note, God has determined the context wherein we exercise our faith; it is not something that one can reflect upon with his eyes or ears or hands (true genuine faith transcends human sight, hearing & something physical — it all stems from the infinite, invisible God who controls the totality of creation (i.e., space, mass and time)… now in spite of the fact that the created order is on a downward plight (i.e., slowly dying), it still reflects God’s existence to a degree (cf. Ps 19:1; Rom 1:19-20).
Beloved, because the foregoing truths are not taught in many churches, let me encourage you to constantly contemplate your eternal hope as you walk through life, and not simply make it a distant reality that is too vague to give much consideration to; as many people argue, “Doesn’t God wants us to enjoy everything He has given to us here on earth?” Though there is a very small degree of truth to that (cf. Ecc 5:18; 9:9; 1 Tim 6:17), His premiere goal for us as His children, is that we walk in the light, and be ever conscious of the fact that “we are not to love the world nor the things in the world” (1 Jn 2:15-17). Remember the words of Job following some extremely difficult losses he suffered in life: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (cf. Job 1:21); obviously Job did not place a high premium on those things that God had given to him… he simply saw them for what they really were. So man can appreciate and enjoy all God gives to him, but he must keep everything in per-spective, and not give extra emphasis to them; thus whatever it is that God has placed in your life, enjoy it… but don’t exaggerate its importance; should you find yourself doing so, take the initiative to either remove it from your life (because it has now become pro-blematic to you), or reinterpret reality and see things for what they really are. Remember the words of the book of Hebrew, “Lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles you, and run with endurance the race God has set before you to, fixing your eyes of Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith” (Heb 12:1-2); incidentally, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek. Here’s something else to consider, “GOD is the one who gives us the power to make wealth;” it is not simply the product of our own doing as most people believe (cf. Deut 8:18)… and as Jesus said, “To whom much is given, much shall be required” (Lk 12:48); the truth is, “the Haves have a responsibility to serve the Have Nots” (i.e., the needy) — the question is: “Are you not your brother’s keeper?” Yes you are, and as a believer you are going to be held accountable at the end of the age for everything in life (cf. Gen 4:9; Mt 16:27; Lk 6:27-36; 10:36-37; 12:13-21; Rom 3:19; 14:12; 1 Pet 4:5). To make light of that is absolute foolishness. Beloved, if God has blessed you with great wealth, you need to start “giving” to various sources, that you might be a faithful servant of the Lord; should you simply keep it all for yourself, you are going to be held account-able for doing that at the end of the age. You can almost hear God saying to someone, I gave you $50,000,000 in life, why were you so selfish and refused to help others with it? Maybe you were only given a couple of million dollars in life, yet you still have a respon-sibility to use it for God’s purposes. Beloved, when you are on your death bed, you will know full-well what an absolute mess you made of your life — my prayer is that you will wake up far sooner then at the end of your life. There are a number of parables that Jesus used to instruct people on this issue; should you be a person of reasonably great wealth, you need to take the time to reflect upon what He had to say so that you will not treat it lightly (cf. Mt 25:14-30; 25:31-46; Lk 19:12-27; Mt 19:16-26). Remember the words of Jesus, “From everyone who has been given much shall much be required” (Lk 12:48). This issue shouldn’t be a difficult construct for any believer to understand; the reality is, God has blessed some people with much, and others with very little (yet fallen creatures argue to the contrary — “That’s not fair that God should give some people a whole lot, and others very little, and then expect the Haves to be responsible for the Have Nots!” Beloved, here’s a thought you might consider — if your house is worth millions, you might want to consider selling it, and investing some of your wealth in some ministry (of which there are thousands). I also find it interesting that rich people are not the happiest people in the world; those with far less wealth are actually far happier… the reality is, there is something about wealth that is actually more problematic than it is pleasing; nevertheless, a very high percentage of people in the world make it the premiere goal of their life; yet near the end of their lives nearly all of them will conclude that “wealth really wasn’t that wonderful” (meanwhile, they essentially wasted their lives coveting it). By the way, the only reason people place an inordinate importance on wealth, is that they value self-centered human thinking over divine thinking — remember, self-centered thinking is the product of our flesh (which is very deceptive and misleading)… so should you decide to follow your flesh in life, you will lose in the end.
The truth is, the reason why God has allocated much to some people and very little to other people, is to measure every man according to his deeds (again, read the parable of the talents and God’s judgment in the book of Matthew (25:14-46). Said Jesus, “I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat” & “I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat” — to which each of these individuals replied, “When did we do that?” The Lord told them, “In as much as you did it to these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Mt 25:35-46); incidentally, that emboldened word “Me” is emphatic in Greek. It should be obvious to believers, the life God designed for us is no accident or mere hap-penstance; furthermore, God is not oblivious to anything that is going on in our lives — did you hear that? The reality is, everything we go through in life has been placed there for a reason, and that reason will one day be fully revealed and judged accordingly… now should one think he can plead ignorance at the end of the age is about as foolish as one can be — to deny it is absolute nonsense and to ultimately regret such thinking. Beloved, don’t make light of all God has blessed you with (regardless of how much it is); simply resolve to be the steward God desires you to be (cf. Lk 12:42-48; 1 Cor 4:2; 1 Pet 4:10). Start by humbly & consciously taking one step every week in serving & helping others (beloved, are you listening to what I am saying?); in so doing, within a few months you will find yourself serving other people almost every day. The reality is, “it simply takes initiative on your part.” Remember, the greatest commandment is this: “LOVE GOD and LOVE OTHERS” — according to God’s Word, people are to be concerned with other people just as God is concerned with them; to love others is to love God! As Paul said, “Do good to all people, especially those of the household of faith” (Gal 6:1), and “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you re-gard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:3-5) — keep in mind, the emboldened words in those verses are emphatic in Greek, so don’t change the discourse!!! Consciously take the initiative to serve others, or you will never be a significant servant for Christ in this world. Remember the new commandment God gave to His disciples the night before He went to the cross: “Love one another as I have loved you; by this shall all men know that you are My disciples” (cf. Jn 13:34-35; 2 Jn 1:5-7). “Those who love their brothers abide in the light… and God abides in them” (1 Jn 2:10; 4:12). Beloved, if you seek God’s will for your life, God will manifest His presence in your life (that’s a given); remember, “love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit” (Gal 5:22 – i.e., it is the work of the Holy Spirit in and through our lives when we humbly submit to God’s will). As Paul emphatically said, “The only thing that means anything in Christ Jesus is faith working through love” (Gal 5:6) — “through love serve one another” (Gal 5:13-14). “Do not lose heart in doing good, for in due time you shall reap accordingly” (Gal 6:9). Beloved, let God’s love consume you. The reality is, if loving others does not define you, according to Scripture you really don’t love God (cf. 1 Jn 4:7-8; 4:16-21; 5:1-3); though love characterizes every true born-again believer to some degree, some believers are far more loving than others; there is nothing they won’t do to help others. Sadly, I am often reminded of the shallowness of most believer’s faith — remember, only 25% of all large congregations play a very significant role both in the giving, the tithing, and the serving that takes place in those churches… thus 75% of the people in those churches contribute very little in giving or serving (keep in mind, we are referring to large congregations, not small ones; most small congregations almost double that amount; i.e., upwards of 50% are involved in giving and serving). Now, though some people are physically impaired and financially poor in their churches, there are still many people in those churches who have the capacity to be far more generous and service ori-ented then they are.
THE RESULTANT EFFECT OF TRUE FAITH
Since the issue of “true faith” is not fully understood by most people in the believing world, let me begin this section by first giving definition to this thing called “faith” — as Dr. James Montgomery Boice, one of the great preachers here in the United States in the 20th century (and the author of the popular book, “Foundations of the Christian Faith”) says, “Faith of religious feeling is not a coequivalent of the objective truth of God’s revelation to man” — i.e., faith is not a matter of what you feel that counts, it’s a matter of what you believe that counts (and that must correlate with what God’s Word says). As Scripture states, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1); keep in mind, those two emboldened words are emphatic in Greek — the reality is, faith is essentially being sure and certain of what is hoped for according to God’s Self-revelation (i.e., according to God’s Word – 2 Tim 3:16-17). So the question is, are you confident in the work God is doing in your life? Or are you simply hoping it is true? Beloved, you must possess significant assurance in the God of your salvation and rest upon the truths He has revealed to us in Scripture. Now if you do not humble yourself before the Lord you will have a very questionable faith, because it is only when one humbles himself before God with a “contrite heart,” that God reveals truth to his heart & assures him of His eternal salvation (cf. Ps 51:17; Is 57:15; Eph 2:8). Keep in mind, since God is truth, whatever He declares is true and can be trusted. When God calls us to believe in Christ, He is asking us to believe the word of the only person in the universe who is entirely reliable (1 Jn 5:9); so faith’s object is Christ. The reality is, faith rests upon divine knowledge (which comes directly from God Himself, not some human ideologist. By the way, divine truth essentially involves two things: it involves who Jesus is (the second person of the Godhead)… and it involves who we are (sinners in need of a savior); and it is the Holy Spirit who brings this knowledge of the gospel (i.e., the good news of God) to fallen man… “thus it is the Holy Spirit who convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment” (cf. Jn 16:9-11). Now when faith is born in man’s heart, He humbly repents of his sinfulness; so genuine faith requires a humble heart that sees him- self for who he really is, and sees God for who He really is. So genuine faith not only accepts divine truth when God conveys it to his heart, but it embraces such truth his entire life — remember, true genuine faith does not just have a momentary effect upon one’s heart & mind; instead, it has a life-long effect upon him because of the presence of the Holy Spirit who dwells within him (cf. Rom 8:9). Keep in mind, faith essentially in-volves “believing God’s Word,” and that means fully embracing God’s Self-revelation and placing one’s trust in it… so faith is not simply a casual belief — it means to fully embrace God’s Word & let it have a life-changing effect upon one’s life. So faith isn’t simply a matter of mentally agreeing with some theological construct; instead it means to completely turn from the self-life and embrace the God-life. Now according to this thing called Scripture (i.e., the Judeo-Christian name for the specific literature that the believing world receives as divine instruction), God’s Word is reasonable, true, trust-worthy and reliable, and is not simply a derivative of human thought (cf. Ps 119:11, 89, 105, 160; Jer 15:16; Jam 3:17; Col 2:2; 3:10; 1 Jn 5:20; Rev 19:11; 21:5; 22:6). Furthermore, the doctrine of genuine faith teaches that if one has saving faith he will never lose it; as John states, “They went out from us, but were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us” (1 Jn 2:19). Thus the doctrine of perseverance does not simply rest on our ability to persevere, it rests upon the promise of God to preserve us. As the apostle Paul states, “He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6; also cf. Rom 8:30)… Paul later said, “Nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39). It is the Holy Spirit who dwells within us who is doing a transforming work in our lives (read the following pass-ages: Jn 14:16-17, 26; 16:13; Rom 5:3-5; 8:9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 26, 28, 29, 30; 15:16; 1 Cor 2:10; 3:16; 12:11; 2 Cor 3:18; Phil 2:13; 1 Th 1:5; Titus 3:5; 1 Pet 1:2; 1 Jn 4:2). Obviously, there are a lot of passages in the New Testament that help give definition to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives; though I only listed a few of them, let me encourage you to take the time and read them — keep in mind, we are not the product of our own doing (contrary to what this juvenile world believes); we are the product of God’s doing… just as I am not the product of my own doing, neither are you. Nevertheless, God asks us to “cooperate with Him,” and “work out the salvation that He has placed in our lives” (Phil 2:12); in so doing, at the end of the age He will reward us accordingly (cf. 1 Cor 3:8, 14; 2 Cor 9:6; Gal 6:7-9; Col 3:24; Heb 10:35-36; 2 Jn 2:8). Now though we all stumble in life, that doesn’t mean we will lose our salvation — remember, Jesus prayed for the restoration of Peter when he stumbled (cf. Mt 26:31ff; Lk 22:31-34); likewise, God prays for our restoration when we stumble — remember the words of Hebrew: “Jesus is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them; it was fitting that we should have such a high priest” (Heb 7:25-26); incidentally, the words “save forever” are emphatic in Greek. Now though we may fall for a while, none of God’s children will ever fully fall away; God simply has a way of moving us in a godly direction (so don’t make God out to be less than He is). Remember the words of Jesus in the Upper Room the night before He went to the cross, in which He shared a high priestly prayer with His disciples — He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee… Holy Father, I ask in their behalf, ‘keep them in Thy name’… while I was with them, I was keeping them in Thy name… and I guarded them, and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, that Scripture might be fulfilled” (cf. Jn 17:1-12; Jn 13:18). Beloved, to think that God is not efficacious in His work is absolute foolishness… of this we can be sure, when God prays for our well-being, it shall be accomplished! Beloved, keep in mind, our salvation is the work of God, not our work, that no one should boast (cf. Eph 2:8-10).
Remember, as God’s children “we were predestined to heaven before we were ever born!” i.e., from all eternity, before we even existed, God decided to save some members of the human race that He was going to create, and let other members of the human race perish. Though this isn’t an easy construct for us to accept or fully understand, this is precisely what Scripture does teach; though none of us merit being preordained into the glorious realm of heaven, nevertheless that is what will occur in the lives of those whom God has chosen. Remember, no fallen person would ever choose God; thus faith is a gift from God to the elect (read Eph 2:8-10); the reality is, each of us as believers chose to embrace Christ because God had opened our hearts to divine truth (read the following verses: Jn 13:12-20; Rom 8:28-30; Eph 1:3-14; 2 Th 2:13-15; Prov 16:4; Ecc 3:11). Though that may be a difficult construct for some of you, as God’s children we must defer to God and what He says (even though we don’t fully understand it), rather then cave into fallen human thinking (which is the problem). It is interesting to note that even we as believers struggle with divine truth at times; nevertheless, over time as we walk through life we will learn to turn from fallen thinking to divine thinking… though we cannot fully reconcile everything God’s Word says, as believers we ultimately learn to accept it; remember, though we’re finite fallen creatures (we are not infinite glorious creatures), God is going to transform us into His image when we enter into the eternal state, and then we will reign with Christ forever. Now how God could pick fallen creatures like you & me, and make us co-heirs with His Son, transcends human thinking. The truth is, the foregoing really doesn’t make sense, especially when one sees himself as the sinful creature that he is… the only way to reconcile our being chosen is to understand that God chose us prior to our ever being created; i.e., God chose us in eternity past long before we even existed, and He did so to accomplish His ultimate goal in the eternal realm (cf. Is 46:9-11; Eph 1:3-11; Rom 8:28ff); so here was God taking about two billion of Satan’s sinful children & making them His children, and by making them His own children he was making them co-heirs with His Son Jesus Christ — though that is an incredible construct of thought, that defines reality for the be-lieving world. Obviously, if we were wonderful glorious creatures that would be one thing, but we are not at all glorious creatures. Yet due to the fact that Christ went to the cross and paid the price for our sins (i.e., redeemed us), and imparted His righteousness to us, we now actually possess a degree of divine holiness (the fullness of which will not be revealed in us until we enter into the eternal state). Yet here we are even now “waging war against Satan & the spiritual forces of wickedness” (cf. Eph 6:10-12), thus fulfilling the will of God in this world; incidentally, that in itself must be extremely pleasing to God — remember, here is the father of sin (Satan) being fought against by some of his own chil-dren whom God had redeemed! Think about it, here are a billion of Satan’s former chil-dren fighting against him with the full armor of God, because they now absolutely despise him! (Eph 6:10-11) — though I can’t attest as to how all of you feel about Satan, I despise him with a passion because I have experienced his presence in my life!
With the foregoing in mind, carefully reflect upon what the apostle Paul had to say: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Rom 8:16-17) — think about it, do you know how important children are to their parents? They are extremely important… there is nothing most parents won’t do to meet the needs of their children. The most perplexing question is this: How in the world could God redeem some of the devil’s children and make them His children? That is an extremely difficult construct to understand. And now that we are God’s children, we are now heirs of Gold & fellow heirs of Christ!!! Beloved, that which we will inherit when we enter into the eternal state, is inheritance in the Kingdom of God with all its blessings (cf. Mt 25:34; Rom 8:17; Acts 20:32; Gal 3:29; 4:7; Eph 3:6; Titus 3:7; Rev 21:7). Again, how can that be? What seems incredibly puzzling to me is the fact that we are ultimately going to be creatures who exceed the entire angelic realm… so it is those fallen creatures whom God redeemed who are going to be co-heirs with Christ (not some glorious creatures in the angelic realm)… in addition to that, we are actually going to “judge the world & the angelic world” (1 Cor 6:12-13). Obviously, God developed a way to transform us into the image of Christ… yet why He did that we don’t know; as fallen creatures it is extremely difficult to imagine how that could possibly have transpired, because we are so mindful of our fallen sinful inner-core, yet that will ultimately be fully removed from our lives when we enter into the eternal state. Beloved, I’m no great crea-ture and no different from any of you… some things simply transcend human thinking (be it my thinking or anyone else’s thinking; we’re all made of the same stuff, and at one point in the distant past we were all children of the devil). It’s actually pretty easy to see God as making an extremely wonderful creature to rule in His kingdom, yet for Him to pick sinful creatures like you and me and redeem us with His own blood, not only tran-scends fallen human thinking, but the thinking of the entire angelic world as well — re-member God’s words to the prophet Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Is 55:8-9 & Prv 14:12). Let me restate this issue — to think that we as fallen creatures are one day going to be “co-heirs with Christ” when we enter into the eternal realm (i.e., we are going to inherit everything Christ is going to inherit!), simply transcends the thinking of both fallen man and the entire angelic world — there is not a single creature in existence who can fathom that!
Now keep in mind, as believers in the earthly realm, God tests our faith by subjecting us to difficult trials in life; by the way, that word “tests” can easily be misinterpreted — it is not as if God is simply determining the genuineness of our faith by subjecting us to trials, He tests our faith that we might grow our faith… it is when we are subjected to trials and tribulations that we demonstrate the depth of our faith; though we oftentimes stumble when we are tested, the testing of our faith ultimately does grow our faith (cf. Heb 11:17-19; Rom 5:3-5; 8:23; Jam 1:2-4; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 4:12-13; 5:10 ). Since being tested can be very diffi- cult at times, it is the trials and tribulations of life that God uses to grow our faith (cf. Eph 2:8-10; Phil 1:6, 29; 2:12-13; Rom 5:3-5; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Heb 12:4-11; 1 Pet 1:6-9), yet due to the fact that our flesh has a strong presence in our lives, growth is not easy. Now in spite of the fact that all of us as believers often stumble and fall in life, all of us as believers get up again and repent & embrace divine truth; though we may fall thousands of times in life, we will get up thousands of times! (cf. Ps 32:1-7; Jam 3:2; 4:6; 5:16). Now keep in mind, as a youngster I was never taught the essence of sin in the believer’s life; interestingly enough, later on I learned that it was a subject matter that very few people in the Christian world actually agreed upon… which was also very stunning to me; how could Christians be so naïve when it comes to this thing called sin? Therefore as a youngster, I had no idea that the Christian life was actually a war against Satan and his cohorts (as well as the world in which we live and our own flesh); to my chagrin, I had only been taught about a life that was full of positives. Now with that in mind, sin has always been a major problem for the believing world — they didn’t know how to define it… how to deal with it… or how to overcome it. Now to wrap up all that has just been stated, in addition to all the verses that are listed above, also take the time to read the following seven chapters – Rom 6-7; Eph 4; Heb 12, Jam 1, and 1 Pet 4-5). Remember, this is a study you are reading, not just a casual read. Incidentally, I expand upon this subject in more detail later on in this study. By the way, one of the most significant studies I have done in the past 20 years is one that is titled, “Sin & Man’s Eternal Purpose;” for me, it was actually a life-changing study. I can’t urge you too much to take the time and read it — it’s only 13 pages long… go on to my website — www.thetransformedsoul.com — and click on the “Additional Studies” link at the top of the Homepage, and then click on the “Spiritual Life Studies”… you can make a pdf copy of it by clicking on the “icon” in the upper right hand corner of the study itself; by the way, there is no charge whatsoever for making yourself a copy.
Let me continue this section by sharing some of the thoughts of the renowned British preacher, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981), who was one of the Christian world’s greatest preachers in the 20th century. He was the author of more then seventy books, and is highly esteemed by the greatest theologians and scholars in the Christian world. Early in the 20th century Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones got a medical degree, yet just a few years later he entered into Christian ministry and became a strong voice in the Christian world (he was very outspoken against liberal Christianity; i.e., against a level of Chris-tianity that places a higher premium on human thinking then on what Scripture teaches), and after serving at one of London’s greatest churches, Westminster Chapel, he retired in 1968 after 35 years of being on staff (the last 25 of which he was the lead pastor). His most popular books were these — “Spiritual Depression”… “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount”… and “A First Book of Daily Readings.” Incidentally, his book “Spiritual Depression” was one of the books that God used to inspire me to write the book “Soul Transformation;” which was a very transforming work for me personally. Many of the authors that contributed to what I wrote were 17th century puritans; i.e., men who were incredibly open, honest and transparent; since they were so forthright in their teachings, their faith impacted much of the Christian world. Now why many in the Christian world today have little regard for the puritans, is very difficult to understand, because the puri-tans strongly embraced the teachings of Scripture. Remember, down through the centur-ies the Jewish world continuously fell-apart spiritually; here they were embracing God, yet a few generation later they once again started living a self-centered humanistic life. Why was that? Well, men are fallen creatures who easily cave into their flesh and the negative work of Satan in our world. Once man confesses his sin & experiences God’s forgiveness, he enjoys the moment, but before long he often drifts back into darkness again; little does he know, his flesh has a very strong presence in his life. Remember, every human being came into this world as a “child of the devil” (not a wonderful little creature) — though they may have been raised in a God-believing home and church, that did not mean they would fully embrace the teachings of Scripture; remember, they were fallen creatures in whom Satan was doing all he could to keep them in the dark (we will address that later). The reality is, every human being must humbly acknowledge his own sinfulness and humbly embrace divine truth as God has stated it in His Word… that’s where it all begins. The reality is — life is not about just being a relatively nice person; yet that is what most people believe… life is about acknowledging the truth about who they really are and placing their trust fully in Christ (regardless of what one is experienc-ing in life). Again, being born into a God-believing family, and being raised in a God-believing church, does not make us God’s children or ensure our faith. Back in the 17th and 18th centuries, many in the Christian world were greatly inspired by the work of the puritans… yet as time passed, the majority of people in the Christian world simplified their faith, and just embraced a few major constructs that were popular back then; by the way, when people treat their faith lightly, of this they can be sure, their faith will either be a very remedial faith or a very disingenuine faith. Many Christian believers in the ancient world in the middle of the 1st century (i.e., following the resurrection of Jesus Christ) took the time to carefully substantiate exactly what they were being taught by the apostle Paul in the Christian community; as such, “they examined the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (cf. Acts 17:11). Now if numerous 1st century believers studied Scrip-ture at length to affirm what they were being taught, should we not also do the same thing today? Or do we simply “hope” we are being told the truth? Beloved, if you are a true genuine believer, you must become an ardent student of the Word — if you don’t identify with that, why is that the case? Why do you treat God’s Word so lightly? Do you not care about what you truly believe? Are you not interested in substantiating what you believe and aligning your thinking with what God’s Word says? Throughout this study you’ll notice I frequently list a number of passages to help give definition to what is stated… obviously, it would be very helpful for you to reflect upon all of the passages that are listed. Now before we move on to the next subject, I thought it would be helpful for believers to understand that most pastors are not really well-versed in what Scripture actually teaches (because it requires a lot of studying), and since few pastors insist on understanding the fullness of what Scripture teaches, their preaching is often relatively shallow — though it may be reasonably accurate, in all likelihood it may not give full definition to what Scripture teaches. Now though most preachers mean well and do their best to serve their congregants, many of them are actually fairly limited in what they preach… what is absolutely critical for preachers is that they be well-grounded in the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith — those are obviously the most im-portant things that every pastor must have absolute command of if he is going to have a very fruitful ministry.
Beloved, I was raised in a Christian home and attended a good Christian church, yet that did not make me a true born-again believer. I still had a very difficult road to travel; one that contained some very perplexing and painful circumstances. So here I was trying to reconcile everything I was experiencing in life, but reconciling those things I could not; as such, I wandered off the grid for awhile (it was simply too exhausting to me), but that obviously didn’t work either, because it didn’t leave me in a peaceful state. Though God used my experiences to bring me full-circle (which is the way He operates in our lives), it took a considerable amount of time for Him to enlighten my heart. Beloved, life is not simply the result of worldly happenstance; contrary to what most Christians believe, life is the work of God in our live… it has absolutely nothing to do with sheer happenstance. The reality is, everything we experience in life has been divinely approved of by God; be it His own actions or the actions of Satan (cf. Job 1-2; 1 Pet 5:6-10). So God had been working in my life to get me to the point where He would open my eyes to a level of divine truth that was unknown to me. Though I had believed several aspects of biblical truth in my younger years, the fact that I had not been transformed as I was led to believe, was very disconcerting to me; so I had questioned my faith and God’s work in my life (which was a very perplexing road for me to travel). Though I had pleaded with God to transform my life several times, that did not occur; so ultimately I came to the conclusion that God was either rejecting me, or that He had not chosen me to be one of His children. Again, just because we may have been raised in a Christian home and attended a Christian church, does not mean we fully understand and embrace divine truth as it is taught in Scripture, or that we have truly experienced salvation and have been born-again. Though my testi-mony in all likelihood differs from yours, that is the road God had me travel down prior to my fully embracing Him as my Lord and Savior. The truth is, very few churches back in the middle of the 20th century actually gave careful consideration to the fullness of what Scripture teaches (many things that transcend human thinking were simply passed over — for instance, things like Romans chapter seven were responded to with words like this: “there are too many viewpoints on that, so we can’t really be sure as to what it means” (which is a very amateurish way of looking at Scripture); the reality is, they simply didn’t take the time to study what Scripture teaches. Remember, back in the middle of the 20th century, we had just come out of World War II, and the western world in which we lived was celebrating its victory over Germany and Japan and enjoying it to the max; and the believing world was celebrating what God had done for us; in so doing, the vast majority of Christian churches back then essentially focused on all the positives of the Christian life, and distanced themselves from all the negatives in life and everything that the liberal churches were teaching; remember, liberal Christians believed it was okay to drink wine and beer, smoke and chew tobacco, go to bars and movies, go bowling, approve of homo-sexuality, premarital sex and divorce, and pretty much enjoy everything the unbelieving world enjoyed… therefore, the believing world essentially became a world that strongly disproved of liberal Christianity and what it valued (keep in mind, those issues were ex-tremely important to the believing world; thus they often spoke out against what liberal Christianity believed). Now due to the fact many believing Christians back then simply focused on certain aspects of what Scripture teaches, they essentially made Christianity a religion of morality and a religion of positives, because biblical negatives were simply deemed too problematic to them (thus they ignored them). However, without embracing the fullness of what Scripture teaches, one can easily misinterpret exactly what it means to be a born-again believer. Now, though no believer fully understands the totality of everything that Scripture teaches, believing is not simply a matter of “picking & choosing what one wants to believe” — incidentally, that essentially was the problem in the ancient Jewish world; they simply embraced things that meshed with human thinking. Remember the words of the Lord to the Jewish world in the “Sermon on the Mount” (Mt 7:21-23) — Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven; but He who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (all sin is lawlessness, and sin is that which does not coincide with divine truth – cf. 1 Jn 3:4). So the message is this: “We don’t have the option of changing the discourse; divine truth is what it is.” Obviously, the foregoing is very sobering, so give careful attention to what it says. Beloved, if one will humble himself before the Lord, and seek God’s will for his life, God will reveal divine truth to his heart and mind — divine truth will not simply be the product of human reason; instead it will be grounded in God’s biblical revelation to man; such is the way God builds our faith (cf. Acts 17:11; Rom 12:2-3; 2 Tim 2:15; 3:16; 1 Pet 1:10).
Again, just because the ancient Jewish world was a “highly religious world” so to speak, that did not make them genuine believers; the problem was they simply distorted God’s message to them. Now due to the fact that they did not humble themselves before God, they were not fully committed to embracing God’s divine revelation; as such they mis-interpreted Scripture and alienated themselves from God; keep in mind, things are no different today in the Christian world; only a third of those who profess to be Christians are men & women of genuine faith — thus two-thirds of them are not. Though some pro-fessing believers do have a genuine faith because they humbly placed their trust in God, nevertheless, their theology may not fully coincide with what Scripture teaches; the fact is, the believing world grows in its understanding of divine truth — the reality is, there probably isn’t a man in existence who has a perfect understanding of everything that Scripture teaches. With that in mind, there are others in the Christian world who are not born-again because their faith is not a true Christ-centered faith that resulted from their humbling themselves before the Lord. So the message is this — we must humbly place our faith in Christ alone if we are going to be genuinely born-again; that’s a given. Now since most believers embrace the theology that their church teaches, some of what they believe can be erroneous (yet they may not be aware of that). The important thing is, mature believers must take the initiative to study God’s word on their own, and not simply defer to what their church teaches, or what some television or radio program teaches (again, cf. Acts 17:11; Rom 12:2; Jn 20:30-31; Eph 4:23; 5:10, 17; Col 1:9; 2 Tim 2:15; Jam 1:19-22; 1 Pet 1:10; 2:2; 2 Pet 3:18). It is precisely the foregoing whereby God has grown my faith; though my faith may not be a hundred percent accurate, it is significantly more accurate today then it was forty years ago. Again, when we humble ourselves before the Lord (i.e., acknowledge who we really are before the Lord, and not think more highly of ourselves then we ought – cf. Rom 12:3; 1 Cor 3:10; 2 Pet 3:18), God will open our hearts & minds to divine truth when we study it — keep in mind, God opposes those with a proud heart, therefore divine truth will not be fully revealed to them.
Now regarding “Divine Revelation,” essentially it is God’s self-disclosure to humanity that they might come to know Him for who He is and what He is like, and what He expects from human beings. Such revelation conveys the conviction that God exists and that He is eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, transcendent, self-sufficient, immanent, holy, truth, good, and a hater of evil. Historical Christian leaders such as Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Hodge, Warfield, and Henry maintain that Scripture not only gives definition to God’s existence, but to His character and His moral demands. Said Luther, “All men have the general knowledge that God is, that He has created heaven & earth, that He is just, and that He punishes the wicked.” Said Calvin, “Even wicked men are forced, by the mere view of the earth and sky, to rise to the Creator.” Thus all knowledge of God comes by way of revelation… human knowledge of God is revealed knowledge, and God alone reveals it. In short, God bridges the gap between Himself and His creatures, clearly dis-closing Himself and His will to them. Again, by God alone can God be known (as you read this study, you might pause and consider the integrity of such statements). Biblical faith affirms that revelation is real because the personal Creator God has chosen to let His human creatures know Him. And Scripture points to Jesus Christ as God’s final revela-tion. Remember, God has provided a source of knowledge about Himself & His Son, and that source is the Bible. Though God has given man the wisdom to understand various aspects of life, man doesn’t have the wherewithal to understand the fullness of life; that’s reserved for God. Don’t make God out to be a simplistic being; the truth is, He is trillions of times smarter than all of His creatures combined. Remember, God is infinite (there is no end to His knowledge), and His creatures are finite; as such, the two are incomparable. It should be clear to every believer, man is not the end all when it comes to knowledge… the reality is, he knows very little about anything including himself, yet he often claims to possess far more smarts then he has. If man had any sense at all, he would naturally admit that what he does know is simply “his own opinion,” not absolute truth… yet the political world often makes some brash statements that are grounded in nothing but fallen human thinking (i.e., opinion). Said King David, “The fool says in his heart, there is no God” (cf. Ps 14:1; 53:1); thus when man rejects divine truth and embraces untruth, God gives him over to a depraved mind, which essentially is characterized by absolute foolishness (Rom 1:21-32). The truth is, proud hearts result in mindlessness… thus, if humility does not reign in a per-son’s mind & heart, God will make him pay a very steep price, because He does not ignore proud hearts (cf. Gal 6:7-8; Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5). One more thought — God is not only the Eternal Supreme Reality, He is the source of all that exists.
OVERCOMING SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION
Though this subject may sound a little strange to some of you, it is not a strange subject among believers. It’s important to remember, spiritual depression is a very common complaint in the believing world, because most Christians simply don’t feel good about their faith, their relationship with God, or all they are experiencing in life — one of the premiere problems is that they make wrong assumptions; in so doing, many believers often question their faith and even doubt it. Now with that in mind, give careful atten- tion to what Martyn Lloyd-Jones had to say on this subject. He told the Christian world that their spiritual depression essentially was the result of their not embracing the fullness of the gospel message. He told them that remaining in such a condition is not only very sad for believers, but a poor representation of the Christian faith. The second chapter of his book on “Spiritual Depression” is titled “The True Foundations,” and in it he says we must address ourselves as the Psalmist addressed himself and his soul, and ask the questions: “Why art thou cast down? Why art thou disquieted within me? Why art thou depressed and cast down?” (cf. Ps 42:5, 6, 11; 43:5). Sadly, said Lloyd-Jones, many people never seem to arrive at a true Christian position, because certain primary aspects of the faith are not clear to them; i.e., they don’t see their own faith as being co-equal to that of other genuine believers. The reality is, the Christian life to them seems to be a constant problem, and they are always asking themselves, “Why can’t I get there?” They read books, attend meetings & conferences, always seeking this something which they do not find. The problem said Lloyd-Jones, is that they have not fully understood the way of salvation; though they often concentrate on the question of sanctification (i.e., being made holy and set apart unto God), the problem is they have not fully understood justification (i.e., being declared righteous by God because he has placed his trust in Him). The classic example of this, says Lloyd-Jones, is John Wesley — though he embraced the Christian religion, he did not understand and grasp the idea that justification is the by-product of faith alone; i.e., that man is justified apart from the works of the Law or any particular action on his part (cf. Rom 3:28; 2 Cor 5:14-21; Eph 2:1-18; Phil 3:4-11). Remember, the doctrine of justification determines the wholeness of Christianity as a religion of grace & faith. By the way, the problem with the Jewish world was that they were entirely wrong regarding the issue of the Law; they believed the purpose of God’s Law was to give definition to the kind of life they needed to live, that by obeying the Law they would justify themselves; however, that was not at all the purpose of the Law. The purpose of the Law is no differ-ent today then it was then; the purpose of the Law is to show man how sinful he is (not how great he is) — “through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Rom 3:20); furthermore, “the Law came in that transgression might actually increase” (cf. Rom 5:20); so the Law magnified sin (i.e., the Law made man more aware of his sinfulness, and his inability to meet God’s perfect standards – Rom 7:7). Beloved, I hope that makes sense to you. As such, “The Law actually became our tutor to drive us to Christ” (Gal 3:24). Now in spite of all of the foregoing, the majority of those in the Jewish world actually had a completely wrong view of righteousness. It’s important to remember, fallen man’s self-righteousness is never sufficient because he has none; so for man to trust in his own righteousness is foolish, because he is completely lacking in righteousness. To build on this subject, re-member what Jesus said to the Jewish Pharisees: “No one is good except God alone” (Lk 18:19); and then there are the words of God to the Jewish world, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God… there is none who does good, not even one… there is no fear of God before their eyes” (cf. Ps 14:1-3; 36:1; 53:1-3; Rom 3:10-18); beloved, those emboldened words are emphatic, so don’t change the discourse… the reality is, fallen man has absolutely no righteousness of his own. Remember, prior to being born-again, “we were slaves of sin;” i.e., we were slaves to our own sinful flesh and all it desired in life; it simply completely ruled over our lives (Rom 6:20); it was when we placed our trust in God, rather than ourselves, “that we were then reckoned righteous by God” (cf. Rom 4:3; 9:30-31; Phil 3:9); i.e., God imputed His right-eousness to us. Beloved, keep in mind, though we are righteous creatures now that we have been born-again, the righteousness we possess is “Jesus’ righteousness!” It is not ours! To somehow think that we actually merit salvation with some work of our own is completely antibiblical, because we have absolutely nothing to give God! Again, only the humble can identify with that, it is the proud who questions that; incidentally, to think that one can merit his salvation would be like broad-jumping a thousand feet, running a mile in one minute, pole-vaulting one hundred feet, and batting one-thousand in major league baseball for an entire year — the issue is this: man is so deficient, he doesn’t come close to measuring up to God’s righteous standards; incidentally, the physical standards just mentioned are far more achievable then God’s righteous standards; the truth is, God’s holy standards completely transcend the entire created realm. Though this was the pro-blem for many in the ancient Jewish world, essentially it is still the problem today with many in the Christian world (in particular, the Roman Catholic world); thus, they not only fail to see the depth of their own sinfulness, they fail to see the absolute need for divine righteousness! It should be obvious to every believer, divine righteousness is so pure we can’t even conceive of it — why? because we aren’t glorious creatures! Though we will be when we enter into the eternal state in heaven, we are not today.
The truth is: there are certain convictions that must rule in the minds & hearts of people if their faith is going to be a productive faith, and one of them is this — they must have a true understanding regarding the depth of their sinfulness. The premiere problem with frustrated Christians is that they simply do not fully understand the depth of their sinful-ness. The reality is, if we are not truly convinced of the fullness of our sinfulness it will negatively effect us spiritually, because we will frequently make incorrect assumptions. The problem with many Christians in this world is that they have never been convinced of the fullness of their sinfulness, and the need to fully acknowledge it. Remember the words of Jesus, “Not a single person is righteous, not even one; all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (cf. Lk 17:19; Rom 3:10-18, 23; 11:32). The problem with many believers is that they don’t see themselves as being the sinful fallen creatures that they are; though they don’t see themselves as being perfect creatures, due to the fact that they acknowledge that they do sin at times, they don’t see themselves as being the fallen sinful creatures that they are; thus they see themselves as being far more righteous then they are (the truth is, they possess absolutely no righteousness). As the American Neoorthodox Theologian, “Reinhold Niebuhr”, stated in his book “The Nature & Destiny of Man” — “Man has always been his own most vexing problem;” the reason being, man simply does not see himself for who he really is; his innate-sinfulness is not nearly as significant in his mind as it needs to be. By the way, Scripture ultimately defines sin as rebellion against God, which was evidenced by Adam & Eve in Genesis 3… and the by-product of it was death and separation from God. So fallen man is seen as one who surrenders to his own fleshly values rather then God’s values… thus man’s problem as a fallen creature is that he has a sinful rebellious nature; by the way, that not only describes the unbeliever, that also describes the believer — and as fallen creatures even we as Christians are far more in-lined to embrace our own personal will in life, rather than God’s will; the reality is; this thing called sin is an attitude of rebellion against God. Now in addition to the foregoing, fallen man is a proud creature who desires to see himself in a far better light than he is; thus he sees himself as only slightly flawed, which does not coincide with what Scripture teaches. Remember, when Adam & Eve sinned they died; from that point on they were dead creatures; their spirit not only died, but they were alienated from God and their fellowship and union with God was now broken; as such, fallen man is “enslaved to sin” (i.e., he is enslaved to his own self-life — though some believers don’t see their self-life as being a sinful life, that’s what it is). Now when we as fallen creatures turned to Christ and experienced His forgiveness and salvation, God then made us brand new creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) and placed the Holy Spirit in our hearts; yet He did not remove our old sin nature from us (which is our flesh); obviously, He left our flesh in our lives for a reason… and as God’s children He now asks us to die to our innate sinfulness and the self-life; i.e., turn from it & no longer let it rule in our lives (cf. Mt 16:24; Rom 8:13; 1 Cor 15:31; Eph 4:22-24; 1 Pet 2:24; Heb 12:1); yet due to the fact that our flesh still has an extremely strong presence in our lives, this is not an easy little issue — as such “it is a ‘war’ we must fight” (Gal 5:16-17; Rom 7:14ff; 8:5ff; 1 Tim 6:12). The problem with many believers is that they simply see this thing called sin as “overt-evil” (i.e., as some external behavior that is obviously sinful); yet due to the fact that Christians don’t commit many overt-evils, they see them-selves in a pretty good light. The problem with only seeing sin as an overt-evil, is that it does not fully define what sin really is; remember, “sin literally means to miss the mark of God’s righteous standards,” and God’s standards are absolutely perfect! Incidentally, God’s righteous standards are not only not reflected in man’s external behavior, neither are they reflected in man’s thinking, in man’s motivation, or in man’s personal desires — when man sees any aspect of his life as reflecting God’s righteousness standards, he is completely misinterpreting reality, and diminishing divine holiness (i.e., making it far less then it really is)… the truth is, it is not in man to fully reflect divine holiness. Now with the foregoing in mind, all of us fall short of God’s perfection, because as fallen creatures we simply do not have the capacity or the wherewithal to meet God’s perfect standards (cf. Rom 7:14-25; Jam 3:2; Ps 73:26; Prv 24:16; Ecc 7:20); thus we must see ourselves as fallen sinful creatures! — saved creatures, yes, but fallen sinful creatures none the less! In other words, sin still plays a very significant role in our lives; though all of us as be-lievers would naturally all like to be glorious creatures, we are not; though we will one day possess absolute perfection when we enter into the eternal realm in heaven, we will not come close to doing so in this life. Again, this should not be a difficult construct for a believer to understand and embrace, and do so he must in this life. The message is this — though we may faithfully walk in the light by obeying God to the best of our ability, we must be careful that we don’t see ourselves as glorious creatures — because no human action fully reflects God’s perfect standards (cf. Phil 3:12-14; Ps 119:96). Said Paul to the be-lievers in Corinth: “It is a very small thing to me that I should be examined by you, or by any human court; the truth is, I do not even examine myself… the one who examines me is the Lord… when the Lord comes He will bring to light the things hidden in the darkness, and disclose the motives of men’s hearts” (cf. 1 Cor 4:3-5).
Obviously, the foregoing is very humbling, and rightfully so… the wonderful truth is, God gives grace to the humble (cf. Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5); i.e., He gives “undeserved favor” to the humble. Are you listening? None of us deserve anything from God, because none of us merit anything! Don’t change the discourse! It is what it is! So in spite of the fact that we as believers are saved fallen creatures, we all still possess a sinful inner-core; i.e., our flesh actually has a sinful satanic nature (remember, prior to our experiencing salvation, we were children of the devil, and the flesh we had then still exists in our lives today!). The problem is, many Christians actually see themselves in a far better light; i.e., they see themselves as actually being genuinely good people, in spite of the fact that they can only assume that relatively speaking; thus their faith is a very remedial faith because they are not close to being the wonderful people that some believers think they are. Now if believers could go into heaven for 24 hours, and observe pure, holy and glorious crea-tures, they wouldn’t have any problem seeing themselves for who they really are in this world (the reality is, we aren’t even close to being perfect creatures). The truth is, when we enter into heaven and the end of the age, we will then be fully transformed and pos-sess a level of holiness that we never even imagined; the problem with some Christians is that they actually think they are not too far off from exhibiting divine perfection… which is absolute nonsense. One of the main problems for believers who see themselves in a better light than they are, is that it causes them to not see God for who He really is; i.e., it causes them to not see God nearly as loving, gracious, glorious and merciful as He really is — the reality is, when believers elevate themselves, they end up minimizing God and their need of Him; think about it, if you see yourself as a wonderful glorious person, why would God ever need to extend grace to you? The truth is, as believers we are all in drastic need of God’s grace! (i.e., God’s unmerited favor). If for some reason you don’t think you are in need of God’s grace, either you have a very remedial faith, or you have a very disingenuine faith; hopefully the foregoing makes sense to you. For one to highly elevate himself is to not see the absolute need of God’s presence and work in his life — to elevate one’s self is to change the whole dynamic of our need to see Christ for who He truly is. Furthermore, it is not as if we as Christians will one day come to the point in this life where we are reasonably glorious creatures and no longer in need of God’s love and grace; the truth is, if there’s anything we need in this life it is God’s lovd and grace; and that we will need all the way to the very end of this earthly life! The wonderful truth is, God sympathizes with our weaknesses; He knows full-well who we are & everything we need in life — He died for us and began a good work in us, and is ultimately going to completely perfect it! (cf. Heb 4:15-16; Phil 1:6). Said Peter, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (cf. 1 Pet 5:10). By the way, that word “Himself” is emphatic in Greek. Remember, Christ is far and away the most important thing in our lives, and is by far the premiere person in our lives… should we minimize our need of Him, our faith will be a very remedial faith. One more time, God fully understands your fallenness and your sinfulness, and will patiently work with you all the way to the end! Though you will often stumble and fall, God will never stop working in your life! Never will He leave you or forsake you – NEVER! (Heb 13:5) — beloved, it is not like you are deserving of it! None of us are! Our justification, sanc-tification and glorification, ultimately are going to be the work of God Himself… He simply asks us to believe in Him and obey Him to the best of our ability as we walk through life in this world… remember, your eternal destiny will be achieved by God Himself! Keep in mind, genuine faith believes what God’s Word says… whereas a remedial faith often does not.
Beloved, here’s the game changer — as human beings most of us put forth a good effort to make life work (i.e., to make life work the way we want it to work — we want it to be a very nice life), but since that often does not happen, life at times can be very distress- ing; especially when we insist on everything working out the way we want it to work. Remember, our sinful inner-core (i.e., our flesh) is always telling us what it likes & what it doesn’t like, and this it often does with emotion (which is one of the premiere dynamics of the flesh); thus the residual affect can be very frustrating & disconcerting. Remember, it is our flesh that causes us to become frustrated, disappointed, disturbed, depressed, anxious, distraught, overwhelmed and angry; these are all the by-products of our flesh. If one will take the time to reflect and give serious consideration to everything that goes on in one’s life for an entire week, he will understand exactly how his flesh functions; beloved, life is not a joy-ride; the truth is, it’s often a distressing reality that we must wage war against. So where do we go from here? Well, it should be obvious, we are all sinful creatures because of the indwelling presence of our fallen nature (i.e., our flesh – cf. Rom 7:14-25). Now though we possess a very sinful nature (i.e., sinful flesh) that doesn’t mean we are to keep focusing on our fleshly actions, thoughts & emotions; for a believer to do so will only cause him to be highly distressed (and rightly so). So how are we as believers to respond? We are to focus on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith… not on the waywardness of our flesh! (cf. Heb 12:2; Heb 1:3; 2:9-11; Phil 2:8-11; 3:8 ) — remember, “Christ is our life!” (cf. Col 3:4; Jn 11:24; Gal 2:20; Phil 3:20-21). Though the foregoing might be somewhat perplexing to you, that is the answer to our sinfulness — we need to constantly focus on Jesus as the object of our faith and salvation, rather then on our fleshly thoughts, our short-comings, and all of the disconcerting negatives we might be experiencing, because that will only cause us to become very distressed, discouraged and frustrated with life & our faith. Though most Christians believe “focusing only on Christ is almost impossible in this life” (which is very true), nevertheless that construct of thought needs to permeate all that goes on in our hearts and minds. Now due to the fact that none of us will come close to being people with absolutely righteous minds in this life, we must interpret things rightly and see things for what they really are, and not simply let our flesh pass judgment and control our thinking. Remember, we have a “war” to fight, and fight it we must! Again, if you are only looking for a pleasant little road to travel down, you are not going find one! Because God isn’t going to permit it! If you can’t accurately define what the Christian life is all about, you are going to have a very difficult time experiencing God’s peace and joy (incidentally, Christ is the foundation of joy… it has absolutely nothing to do with the circumstances of life — I fully define this later on in this study). Again, keep in mind, there is no such thing as perfection in this life… there is constant warfare going on in our inner-core… it is only when we refuse to fight the good fight and deal with our flesh that we will not end up experiencing peace and joy. Though we will stumble often in life, when we fight the good fight of faith, we will experience far more peace and joy in life then if we fail to fight the good fight. Again, I cover this subject in more detail later in this study. The main point I am emphasizing here is that we must continually fight the goods fight (1 Tim 6:12). Though there will be times when we cave into our flesh, we will not do so nearly as often when we are committed to fighting the good fight! That’s just the way the Christian life works — God honors those who humbly keep on fighting the good fight (He gives grace to them – Jam 4:6)… but not those who fail to do the fighting. Obviously, with the forgoing in mind, this life we are called to live isn’t a simple little joy-ride, as some like to make it out to be; it is a “war” God wants us to fight — remember, Christ died for our sin and asks us to die to our sin! Keep in mind, if you will fight the good fight, you will experience a significant amount of God’s grace in life!
The problem with many believers, is that they were never taught much of the foregoing; for some reason, thus they might have thought that their flesh would pretty much fall-apart as they embraced Christ (yet that is not at all what Scripture teaches). According to the apostle Paul, “our flesh is continuously being corrupted” (cf. Eph 4:22); i.e., it is getting worse and worse, not better and better — that should not be difficult for any believer to understand, because our flesh is far worse today than it was when we were children; by the way, the words “being corrupted” are present tense, passive verbs in Greek; thus this is a continual action that is going on in our flesh; essentially it is being corrupted by the deceitful desires of our flesh). Obviously, our flesh has always been a part of God’s plan for us as His children — He so willed it because it involves growing our faith & keeping us humble without a lot of self-pride; remember, God only gives grace to the humble (cf. Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5). Though sin is not something that’s easy to tolerate, it does keep us very humble. Keep in mind, Satan means everything for evil, whereas God means everything for good (cf. 2 Cor 12:7-10; Gen 50:20; 45:5, 7); as such, God uses our sins to open our eyes to the truth, that we might see ourselves for who we really are. Remember, God created us and planned the end from the beginning (cf. Ps 139:13-16; Is 46:8-11); sin was not a surprise to God when it occurred; it was simply the next step in the process of Him completely removing it from the universe. Again, if that is a somewhat troubling thought for you, let me encourage you to read a study I did on it titled, “Sin & Man’s Eternal Purpose;” you can access it on my website — www.thetransformedsoul.com — simply click on the “Additional Studies Link” at the top of the Homepage, and then click on the “Spiritual Life Studies” — incidentally, you can make a “pdf copy” of the study by clicking on the “Icon” on the upper right-hand corner of the first page (there is no charge for doing so). Since the study is only 13 pages long, take the time to read it; by the way, that study was a very significant one for me personally, because it answered numerous questions that I had struggled with over the years. Now with all of the foregoing in mind, God wants us to wage war against our sinful flesh, and not simply treat it like some remedial issue in our lives; remember, God has a purpose for everything He subjects us to in life; nothing occurs in our life that is mere happenstance or is outside His control. With that in mind, it is also important to remember, as we grow older in life, we are going to be subjected to some very difficult issues… there will be more pain, more suffering, more trials & more tribulation — each of which serves a very worthwhile purpose in God’s economy. So either you are going to embrace and accept reality for what it really is, or you are going to deceive yourself and believe untruth — how a believer can somehow think that our omniscient, omnipotent, eternal Creator could have “created everything without a goal in mind,” borders on absolute lunacy (yet that’s not uncommon for silly little creatures to think; here he is making a judgment with a finite mind that is extremely limited). By the way, if the foregoing is a difficult construct for you to embrace, you need to study the fullness of the issue; there are numerous passages throughout Scripture that give definition to this issue. In so doing, you will be able to look at reality in a far more wonderful light; no longer will you misinterpret or be puzzled about all that goes on in your life.
Now though life is not an easy little journey for any of us as believers to travel, neither is it an impossible journey — remember what the book of Hebrew says: “We must lay aside every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles us, and run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:1-2). When we let the hindrances of life dominate our thinking, they will prevent us from making spiritual progress in life. Again, as believers we must see God for who He really is, and we must see ourselves for who we really are; remember, these are the two foundational elements of our faith. Beloved, keep in mind, God never stops extending grace to the humble (i.e., God extends His unmerited favor to those who humble them-selves before Him) — are you listening? Not one of us is deserving of grace; nevertheless when we humble ourselves before Him He extends it to us — grace is simply the bypro-duct of God’s everlasting love for us [cf. Ps 136]; how He can love us as sinful & disgusting as we can sometimes be, is beyond any of us — that God is a God of love is simply an unfathomable enigmatic reality… all we can say is what the great British hymnwriter Charles Wesley said in his hymn “And Can It Be” — “Amazing love! Now can it be that Thou My God shouldst die for me!” — Charles Wesley was not worthy of God’s grace prior to becoming a child of God, nor was He worthy of God’s grace after becoming a child of God. Now should you insist on meriting God’s love & grace, you are not going to experience it; one of the reasons God left our flesh in us is that we would not become proud individuals who think they somehow merit God’s favor… the reality is, none of us merit it! Not a single ounce! The truth is, grace is the foundation of our faith and our relationship with God — remember the words of the apostle Paul: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:8-10); by the way, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek. Now with the foregoing in mind imagine this — if you were a glorious little creature now that you are one of God’s children, God’s grace would no longer be that significant to you… but being that “sin” still plays a very significant role in your life, God’s grace continues to play an extremely vital role in your life! Remember, He died for your sins; though He didn’t remove your innate sinful flesh from you, He had a reason for not doing so… it is your sinfulness that causes us as fallen creatures to glory in God’s love and forgiveness (and this we will do throughout our entire life here on earth). Remember the words of Paul, “Wherein sin increased, grace abounded all the more!” (Rom 5:20). I will continue to expand upon this issue of sin in the following chapters, so give very careful attention to it. Always keep in mind, God gives grace to the humble, but is opposed to the proud (cf. Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5); so if pride kind of rules in your life as a believer, you will probably experience some very difficult moments later on in your life… so don’t pretend to be something you are not. You must humble yourself before God and see yourself for who you truly are… if you do, God’s love for you will be extremely significant in your life.
To continue on with what Martyn Lloyd-Jones had to say — two of the main problems with the believing world is that they either think they are good enough, or that they are not good enough — though believers possess a degree of goodness due to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, they do not possess a level of goodness that merits a degree of grace from God in any way — that will make more sense to you latter; simply give very careful consideration to what this entire paragraph states. Both of the constructs that Lloyd-Jones mention must be properly understood, so take the time to read this entire paragraph or you may misinterpret what is being said. Now, since none of us as believers measure up to God’s perfect standards, none of us merit God’s unde-served favor; for a believer to somehow think that he must merit it is where the problem lies. So both of the positions that Lloyd-Jones alludes to are WRONG! Now for one to think that he is good enough, means he thinks he is somewhat deserving of God’s favor, yet that does not at all coincide with what Scripture teaches (no believer possesses that kind of goodness). Now should he take the position that he does possess goodness, he will actually end up lessening the significance of God’s grace in his life, because God only gives grace to the humble; i.e., He does not give grace to the proud or those who don’t think too highly of themselves. Now when one thinks that he is not good enough, he will often feel that God is disappointed in him for not being substantially better than he is; thus he will see God as being very displeased with him. Now with the foregoing in mind it is important to see both of thesse constructs as WRONG! Beloved, the eternal God of creation LOVES US UNCONDTIONALLY! So to travel down either of those two roads is to completely change the discourse… keep in mind, for us to see ourselves as being worthy or see ourselves as being unworthy, the focus on each of these two view-points is “ourselves,” and therein is the problem! The truth is, as believers we need to shut the window on ourselves, and focus on the glory, the grace & the greatness of God Himself! Remember the words of the Hebrew author: “Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author & perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Heb 12:2; Jn 15:4-11). Remember the words of the Lord to His people, “I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you!” (cf. Deut 31:6, 8; Josh 1:5; Heb 13:5); by the way, those emboldened words in that verse are emphatic in Greek. Beloved, the truth is, God will NEVER leave us and never forsake us!!! Remember the words of Jesus, “There is none good except God alone” (cf. Lk 18:19 and Rom 3:10-18), and none of us will ever merit God’s love. The problem with many believers is that they are very fearful that God will ultimately deal very harshly with them because they are not good enough (there problem is, they never fully understood their complete fallenness as human beings — by the way, it is just such thinking that rules in the unbelieving world; they simply don’t see themselves as sinful fallen creatures. To help shed light on God’s eternal love for us, take the time to read all of the verses in Psalm 136; keep in mind, 26 times the author of that Psalm said, “God’s lovingkindness is everlasting!” Now if you are going to insist on meriting God’s love and grace as you walk through life (i.e., that you actually merit it to some degree), you are going to have a very remedial faith. The problem with most people in the Christian world is that they focus far more on themselves then they do on CHRIST! For a person to think he is better than he is (i.e., that he is no longer a sinful creature), or that God is extremely dissatisfied with him because of his lack of goodness, is actually very proble-matic because those are two extremely troubling constructs. For one to dwell on either of those two constructs, one will actually distort the foundation of God’s message to the believing world. Beloved, if the foregoing identifies you, you need to do all you can to humbly and prayerfully get your eyes off of yourself and put them on CHRIST ALONE! (Heb 12:2) — if you are continually aware of Christ & His unconditional love for you, you will significantly reduce having a self-focus, which is exactly what believers must do. As previously stated — “God will never leave us or forsake us” (Heb 13:5)… “God will perfect the work He began in us until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6). The night before Jesus went to the cross, He said to His disciples, “I am the vine, you are the branches; abide in Me and you will bear much fruit” (Jn 15:5); abiding and believing in Christ are actually addressing the same issue of genuine salvation; to not abide in Christ is to not believe Him, and not acknowledge Him for who He is; instead it is to place one’s trust in himself and his own righteousness. Remember, Christ is our salvation! He is our righteousness! He is our hope! He is our life! He is the One who is at work in us, both to will and to work His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). The truth is, we are sinful, fallen crea-tures whom Christ redeemed through the blood of the cross! We did not merit it in anyway! Thus as believers we must look at nothing & nobody but CHRIST! It is when we focus on ourselves that fallen human thinking rules in our hearts & minds. Beloved, we must have a humble attitude about ourselves, and a glorious attitude about Christ as we walk through life; again, if we don’t we will have a very remedial faith (i.e., we will actually have a self-centered faith, which is a very juvenile faith). Lord willing, the foregoing is not a questionable construct for you; beloved, may you put forth every effort to keep your eyes on Christ as you walk through life; though it is not easy because of our sinful flesh, that is the road God’s people are to travel down; all other roads are extremely problematic and result in spiritual depresssion. As the 19th century British hymnwriter Edward Mote (1797-1874) said in his famous hymn “The Solid Rock” —
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones concluded his sermon with these words: Would you like to rid yourself of spiritual depression? The first thing you must do is say farewell once and forever to your sinful past — was it horrific? awful? morally disgusting? full of evil? Regardless of what it was, it is time to shut the door on it forever! The past is the past, and God paid the entire dept of your wrong-doing! To continue moaning over every-thing you did is no longer justifiable! Christ paid your entire dept! Remember, every sin you ever committed or ever will commit was blotted out through the cross; as such, it no longer is to rule in your heart & mind, no matter how ugly and corrupt it may have been. Though that may be a difficult construct for you to embrace, that is the reality that you need to fully embrace! And do so with great gratitude! Never look back at your sins again (regardless of when they were committed), because Satan will use them to contin-ually discourage your faith & hurt your soul (remember, Satan will bring your wayward behavior back into your thinking over and over and over again; he will never let it dis-appear from your mind; that is simply the way Satan operates in the lives of his former children! So what are you going to do? Reflect upon it or turn away from it? Even though it may have been a horrific sin, you must let it go! (just as the apostle Paul did). Simply say to yourself, “It is finished, and it is covered by the blood of Christ!” Then regarding all of this talk about “your own personal goodness,” abandon that nonsense as well! Simply look to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and His goodness; it is only then that the believer will experience a joyful heart — if you think joy must be the product of your own goodness, you will never experience it! What is important is that you not make resolutions to live a better life; the problem with doing so is that you are focusing on yourself again, and that’s a dead end street. Thus simply say, “I rest my faith on Him alone who died for my transgressions to atone!” So we conclude that man is justified by faith (i.e., believing in Christ alone) without the deeds of the Law (cf. Rom 3:20, 21, 28; Eph 2:8-9). Though the foregoing is somewhat difficult for us as fallen creatures to fully em-brace, let me encourage you to take the time to humbly study it and let God minister truth to your heart; to the regret of many believers, many churches actually teach their congre-gants to make resolutions to live a better life (i.e., they ask them to focus on themselves; but that’s a dead end street). Beloved, the reason why there is a lot of erroneous preaching in the Christian world, is that many preachers simply have not given significant attention as to what Scripture teaches; though they don’t intentionally teach heresy, that is what many of them do. Obviously as believers we have a war to fight, and fight it we must! Satan and the world forces of darkness and wickedness are constantly at work doing all they can to get us to focus on ourselves and not on Christ! Remember the words of Paul to the church at Ephesus — Be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God that you may be able to, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, powers, and the world forces of darkness and the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day… having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…. In addition to all, take up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take up the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (cf. Eph 6:10-17).
According to the words of Paul, it should be obvious, in our own strength we are no match for the devil — God’s best soldiers are those who are conscious of their own weaknesses and ineffectiveness, and rely solely on Christ. Again, our battle is not with fallen human beings & false religionists & atheists & agnostics, but the demonic beings working through them. Since we are fighting against enemies in the spirit world, as Paul states, we must be grounded in divine truth, the righteousness of Christ, the gospel of Christ, the life of faith, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit — each of those elements are critical; such is the whole armor of God (remember, Satan’s a liar). Christ is the Truth (Jn 14:6); He is our righteousness (2 Cor 5:21); He is our peace (Eph 2: 14); He is our faith (Gal 2:20); He is our salvation (Lk 2:30); He is the Word of God (Jn 1:1, 14). Beloved, if you will develop a relationship with God, and embrace that relation- ship, you will walk in the light, and have fellowship with Him — to simply focus on oneself will not lead to love and joy and peace and goodness and kindness, and faith-fulness and self-control (cf. Gal 5:22-23) — one must focus on Christ, and do so with the understanding that God loves you unconditionally! (in spite of the fact that you our clearly not worthy of God’s grace — remember, “grace” literally means “undeserved favor;” the reality is, we are not worthy of it! The beauty of it is, God dispenses of it to those who humble themselves before Him! It is completely unearned!). Now since the foregoing is a difficult construct for many Christians to believe and embrace, they must humbly pour out their heart to the Lord and affirm what His Word says. Keep in mind, when we humble ourselves before the Lord, we experience His grace (cf. Jam 4:6) which transforms our thinking — without grace we will simply remain fallen creatures with fallen minds; again, we can’t overcome the residual effects of our fallen nature in our own strength (God’s grace is an absolute must!) — when Christ is your focus, you will bear fruit; when you are your focus, you will not bear fruit. Take the time to give very careful consideration to the following passage — Jn 15:1-11 and Heb 12:2).
Remember the words of Paul to his ministry friend, Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15) — by the way, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek. And then there are the words of James (the blood brother of Jesus): “Let not many of you become teachers, knowing that as such you will incur a stricter judgment” (Jam 3:1). Again, the emboldened words are emphatic in Greek. The message is this, because teachers have a very strong influence on those they are teaching, they better give very careful consideration to exactly what it is they are teaching. Remember, to be a teacher is to be a leader and influence others, and according to God leaders are one day going to be held responsible for their work; i.e., God is going to hold all leaders accountable at the end of the age. Keep in mind, being a good preacher is not about their congregation liking them or admiring them, it is about their being ministered to by God’s Word, and theologically aligning themselves with Christ and being completely sold out to Him! The problem with many pastors & teachers is that they have a lot of self-pride and are far too self-oriented, rather than being God-oriented. Beloved, don’t take all of the foregoing lightly; what is important for everyone of us as believers is that we embrace divine truth as God has stated it! By the way, without humbling oneself before the Lord, one will often misinterpret Scripture, because divine truth is communicated by God, and He only communicates it to the humble; keep in mind, a proud heart God will not tolerate; so if you are teaching others with a proud heart, at the end of the age you will have a very serious price to pay because some of your teachings were not fully grounded in Scripture. With the foregoing in mind, let’s take a moment and go back about 2,000 years in history to the time when Christ came into the Jewish world — most Jews back then aligned their thinking with the Pharisees; as such, they didn’t embrace Christ… instead they argued with Him, and ultimately got angry with Him and killed Him! When Jesus was minister-ing to the multitudes, “He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd” (cf. Mt 9:36); Lord willing the sheep God has placed in your life to be ministered to, are being properly fed divine truth. Remember the words of Jesus to Peter just prior to His ascending into heaven — He said to Peter, “Do you love Me more than all of My other disciples?” To which Peter responded say-ing, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You!” Then Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep”… “Shepherd My sheep”… “Feed My sheep” (Jn 21:15-17). You’ll notice, they were “Christ’s sheep” that He asked Peter to minister to, not his own sheep. Likewise, our ministry as pastors is to “Christ’s sheep” — they are not our own sheep! Remember, just because the majority of professing believers claim something to be true doesn’t mean it is TRUE! With that in mind, why would you think fallen man is better today then he was 2,000 yrs ago? If you embrace the humanistic thinking that more than half of the Christians world believes, you are either going to have a very remedial faith, or in all likely hood a very disingenuine faith. Because so many professing Christians do not align their thinking with what Scripture teaches (for whatever reason), they simply align their thinking with their denomination or their church and what it teaches (i.e., their pastor), because they are not well-versed on what Scripture actually teaches. As such, rather then fighting the fight of faith, they cave into what the masses believe. Beloved, if that defines you, humble yourself before the Lord, and share your heart with Him, and give great consideration to what His Word (i.e., Scripture) says; in so doing He will minister truth to your heart. Again, without genuine humility you will not experience the grace to believe — why is that? because believing divine truth is the work of God in people’s lives… He is the one who opens the heart and mind to believe… divine truth is not the by-product of human thinking, it comes to us directly from God (cf. Acts 16:14; 1 Th 1:5; Jam 4:6).
THE ESSENCE OF MAN’S FALLEN THINKING
For a fallen creature to define ultimate reality and give definition as to who God is with his fallen mind (which is actually devoid of any knowledge that transcends the created order) essentially is nonsensical. According to the 4th century BC Greek philosopher Plato, in his work “Apology,” he says the 5th century BC Greek philosopher Socrates describes his practice of philosophy as follows: “I am very conscious that I am not wise at all.” Said Plato, “It is because Socrates understood that he knew little or nothing that he was actually significantly wiser than the politicians, poets and craftspersons” — these groups essentially believed they possessed wisdom, which they lacked, hence they were actually self-deceived. So Socrates is often viewed as the wisest of all the Athenians. The reality is, “Socrates undertook the mission to show those who think they themselves are wise (but are not), the error of their ways.” By the way, this thing called “reason” essentially is viewed as a conclusion that one arrives at by some logical deduction or some premise; though it doesn’t make it factual, it tends to make it acceptable to most people. To the regret of many countries in our world, “reason” is often successfully suppressed in favor of some political entity (incidentally, that strongly defines the dia-bolical left here in America). Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, the authors of the book “The Enigma of Reason” (published by Harvard University Press), essentially stated the following: “Reasoning doesn’t necessarily drive people to a better knowledge, because if people start out with a wrong intuitive idea, they are almost always stuck on their initial wrong idea.” Remember, leftist ideologues do not believe that the universe pos-sesses a Supreme Reality (i.e., that God created the universe), hence they choose to be-lieve in evolution rather than creation (in spite of the fact that the scientific world has now proven that evolution does not define this physical universe in which we live; i.e., that evolution does not at all mesh with reality — one of the main laws of the scientific world is this: “Anything that possesses design, order or function was made! Nothing that possesses any of these qualities simply evolved!” Now in spite of that truth, the diabolical left stiff believes in evolution; keep in mind, only a few nonsensical leftist ideologues here in the US still believe in evolution, in spite of the fact that the scientific world has disproved it. It is also interesting to note that many European Scientists have been very outspoken against America’s leftist ideologues & leftist-oriented scientists, because they refuse to embrace reality as science clearly defines it… keep in mind, the reason the “left” here in America continues to embrace evolution is that they are com-pletely Anti-Christ! — i.e., they despise Christ so much they will support anything that runs counter to Christ. Remember, if evolution is true, then God the creator doesn’t exist; hence the left strongly embraces evolution because it takes God off the table, and the last thing the left wants to do is defend this Supreme reality called GOD. Now with the foregoing in mind, Mercier and Sperber state that “reasoning fails because it has a so-called ‘myside bias;’” i.e., that people basically only look for arguments that support what they already think; given this bias, it is not surprising that people typically get stuck on their initial idea. By the way, some refer to this as “circular reasoning” — when a person begins with a certain position, he ultimately reasons around it and ends up fully embracing it — remember, if you start with the assumption that evolution exists, essentially you will embrace anything that supports that argument, and pretty much re-ject anything that does not (which is precisely how leftist ideologues deal with the issue of evolution — when one dismisses creation from the discussion, he ultimately will end up disproving creation! To give integrity to one’s thinking on any subject, what is im-portant is that one deal with all of the pros & cons on both sides of that subject; in so do- ing he will be far more inclined to embrace the truth — however, if one has an extreme bias, he will not give careful attention to that which is antithetical to his thinking. The reality is, such thinking is about as nonsensical as one can be; stupid thinking possesses absolutely no merit whatsoever (cf. Rom 1:18-32). The problem with fallen man is that the majority of them take the existence of their myside bias for granted. What is critical for fallen man is that he focus on the fullness of an issue (i.e., both sides of an issue), not just that which coincides with his own opinion; but few people choose to go down that road (as such, they are very gullible). As Hugo Merciere & Dan Sperbert state in an article titled “Arguments for an Argumentative Theory” (published by Cambridge University Press in England in 2011) — “One of the major problems with the so-called geniuses of our world, is that skilled arguers are not after the truth, but after arguments supporting their views” (i.e., their bias). So in spite of the fact that fallen man thinks his temporal thinking is sufficient to define reality, he actually ignores many of the dynamic realities of this world, and pretty much everything that has transpired in this temporal world down through the ages — in so doing, he makes the assumption that all that has transpired in this world is essentially irrelevant with regard to ultimate reality and who God is; the truth is, he not only doesn’t know what has transpired in our world, he doesn’t know why things transpired.
Beloved, it’s important for man to remember that God is an active voice in our world, that He is the one who effectuates all of the changes that take place in our world — the truth is, He has destroyed numerous countries down through the ages because of their wickedness (be it Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria, Jerusalem & numerous other countries), and then there is the incredible incident that occurred about 5,000 years ago, “Noah and the worldwide flood” that God used to destroy the entire world (Gen 5-8). As crazy as it may sound, many believers don’t even believe in the flood, because it simply doesn’t mesh with their think-ing (i.e., leftist ideological thinking); in spite of the fact that many in the scientific world have evidenced this thing called “a world wide flood.” The reality is, many human be-ings do not believe in it because some godless diabolical minds in our world refuse to even admit that it did happen (because that would justify the integrity of Scripture); the problem is, many professing believers actually listen to what fallen man says rather than what God’s Word says (thus in all probability, these individuals may not be true genuine believers) — again, the problem with fallen man is this: he is so fallen he refuses to even consider the fullness of all the evidence — when “hate” rules in a person’s heart, he won’t give credence to something that he hates; thus he will simply refuse to consider what he does not believe; it is one’s innate myside bias that rules in his thinking — keep in mind, when numerous people embrace a diabolical negative, that will strongly influence the masses, and cause them to keep on embracing untruth. It is interesting to note, the ancient Roman world believed that the earth was “flat” (not “round”), thus the Church of Rome actually embraced that thinking, which shows us how influential fallen human thinking is in the minds and hearts of men (be they believers or unbelievers). Beloved, are you listening? So here is fallen man wrongly judging God by simply defining reality according to fallen fleshly thinking. Though reality oftentimes is not easily understood, yet to arrogantly deny it without evaluating the sum total of all that it contains is to be extremely juvenile with one’s thinking (it would be one thing to say “I don’t know,” but quite another to say “I don’t believe that,” without a nickels worth of evidence). By the way, the foregoing is essentially the norm for fallen man; he often passes judgment on things with very little knowledge; he never stops to give careful consideration to all the pros and cons that exist on a subject (again, such is very common in this fallen world in which we live; man simply lets some innate bias or popular thought rule in his mind).
The truth is, the depth of man’s thinking is extremely shallow (not even an inch deep; he simply jumps to conclusions and embraces fallen human thinking; the fact is, the sum-total of what he believes is extremely limited. The truth is, the genius of the created order is completely ignored by leftist ideologists, in spite of the fact that it is so stunning it is mind-boggling! This issue reminds me of what one of the greatest scientists in history, Albert Einstein, had to say: “The scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causa-tion… His religious feeling takes the form of a raprurous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking & acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.” Though Einstein may not have been a genuine believer, he exhibited a level of humility that must have been extremely pleasing to God; it’s my opinion that God must have been the one who conveyed it to his heart and mind. Remember, God is the source of all gen-uine knowledge; He is the one who defines reality. So it is the arrogant thinking of fallen man that is the problem; he makes judgments that are not only completely lacking in wis-dom (because he refuses to humbly consider the fullness of divine revelation), he often makes judgments that are completely lacking in true knowledge. As Scripture states, “Man suppresses the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18) that he might live life accord-ing to his own will, his own desires, and his own fallen thinking; in so doing he simply insists on being an autonomous self-centered creature. Thus to suppress the truth in unrighteousness is to let unrighteous thinking rule in one’s mind, simply because right-eous truth does not mesh with his own fallen fleshly thinking. The truth is, one cannot simply make reality out to be what he wants it to be; remember, reality is what it is, and God is the author of it! The reality is, fallen man is a very self-centered creature with a level of thinking that is hardly even an inch deep (the truth is, he has very shallow think-ing). Beloved, for one to change the discourse (i.e., change reality) because it doesn’t mesh with his fallen thinking is complete foolishness, because he cannot justify what he thinks. The truth is, fallen thinking completely ignores reality as God has defined it in His Word, and not only that, but they ignore the fact that many people in the scientific world have actually affirmed much of what Scripture teaches (including the first and second laws of thermodynamics, which essentially give accurate definition to the entire created order). So numerous things that have transpired in our world down through the ages (as Scripture so states) have actually been confirmed by the scientific world; nevertheless, many bogus Christians even refuse to believe some of what has transpired, because it doesn’t mesh with fallen human thinking — regrettably, that is not at all uncommon (it just shows how corrupt fallen human thinking really is; be one an unbeliever or a believer). By the way, if you would like to read some of what science has now embraced, let me encourage you to read a study I did on it that is titled, “True Unequivocal Truth” — simply go on my website — www.thetransformedsoul.com — and click on the “Additional Studies Link” at the top of the Homepage, and then click on the “Spiritual Life Studies.”
Now with the foregoing in mind, as Christians we must be very cognizant of exactly what it is we are truly believing — are we believing divine truth as Scripture states it, or are we believing fallen human thinking? The question is, how do you know that what you are believing is true and not a lie? Remember, God only gives assurance of divine truth to those who humble themselves before Him; without possessing a humble heart, man will simply satisfy himself with his own fleshly thinking. So if your theology doesn’t coincide with what Scripture teaches, you simply have not humbled yourself before the Lord and sought to know divine truth. The reality is, if God’s revelation often runs contrary to what a person believes; as such, he is believing that which is not true (i.e., untruth); again, the reason for it is that he has not humbled himself before the Lord; remember, God is the one who gives grace and wisdom to mankind, and He only gives it to the humble (cf. Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5). Beloved, genuine reality is not understood by those with an arrogant heart, because GOD is the one who communicates it to man’s heart & mind — obviously many in the Christian world are not genuinely humble creatures; thus they are still far too self-centered. By the way, regarding this thing called “knowledge” and “wisdom” (i.e., true knowledge and true wisdom) — the truth is, man not only has very little knowledge, he is almost completely lacking in wisdom. Keep in mind, in the highest sense wisdom is an attribute of God that is related to divine knowledge (cf. Ps 104:24; Rom 11:33; 1 Cor 1:24; Rev 7: 12). Ultimately, real wisdom is the fear of God, and that begins with God (cf. Prv 1:7; Job 28:28), and is a divine gift (cf. Acts 6:10; 1 Cor 2:6; 12:8; Eph 1:17; Col 1:9; 3:16; Jam 1:5; 3:15-17). For a person to think that he can remove God from His thinking, and be a man of great wis-dom and knowledge, is completely erroneous; he is elevating himself far beyond who he really is, and God doesn’t honor that — now you can make all kinds of claims without God being a profound aspect in your life, yet such claims will border on lunacy — why would God permit unbelieving fallen creatures to possess true wisdom? Remember the words of Jesus to His disciples who questioned why He was speaking to the masses in parables; said Jesus: “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them (i.e., unbelievers) it has not been granted” (cf. Mt 13:11). God does not cast His pearls before swine (cf. Mt 7:6). Beloved, remember, God is the God of the universe, and nothing happens that He does not permit or control — if that is a difficult construct for you, you need to study the eternal universality of God; He is the God and the source of all things. Though as finite creatures we have a difficult time understand-ing exactly how God works in our world, He is on the throne, and there is no competition overriding Him! One more time, let me emphasize the fact that “God is in opposition to the proud” (cf. Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5); He doesn’t play games with mankind. Though some of the things we must be concerned with in life are knowledge, the world, justice, virtue, and family, the greatest thing we must be concerned with is “faith” (i.e., placing God at the forefront of our lives – Prv 1:7). Said the Lord to the prophet Isaiah, “I will destroy the wisdom of all who claim to be wise… and confuse those who think they know so much” (Is 29:13-14). “I make liars of false prophets… and those who claim to be wise I refute and show that their wisdom is foolishness” (Is 44:25). Said Solomon (the wisest man whoever lived – 1 Kg 3:12), “There’s a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way of death” (Prv 14:12). Said the Lord to Jeremiah, “The wise men will be put to shame, because they have rejected the word of the Lord” (Jer 8:9). Said Paul to the Corinthians, “God chose the foolish things of this world (i.e., foolish according to fallen man) to put the self-acclaimed wise men to shame” (1 Cor 1:27)… “The wisdom of this world is foolishness to God” (1 Cor 3:19)…He then said to the Romans: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools… they exchanged the truth of God for a lie; thus they worshipped the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:22, 25). And to the Colossians he said “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit” (cf. Col 2:8). Obviously, there is both truth and untruth in this world… to embrace truth is to believe God, and to embrace untruth is to believe in one’s self rather than God; keep in mind, at the end of the age every one of us will be dealt with accordingly.
THE ESSENCE OF TRUE REPENTANCE
Regarding this thing called repentance, essentially it is a wholehearted turning to God that was preached numerous times by Old Testament prophets — terms such as “return, turn, and seek” are used over and over again to express the idea of repentance in the OT (cf. Deut 4:29-31; 30:1-3; Is 55:6-7; Jer 3:10; Ezek 33:11, 19; Ps 119:2; Prv 28:5; Is 51:1; Hos 5:15). To change one’s mind is to change one’s attitude as well as one’s actions and even his whole way of life. Repentance is an important element in both Old & New Testament preaching (cf. Jer 25:1-7; Mk 1:15; 6:12; Lk 1:16ff; Acts 2:38) — the reality is, repentance is actually an aspect of con-version; the other being Faith; so repentance and faith are two aspects of the one exper-ience in which a man turns from sin and self to Christ. So genuine repentance essentially leads to a renunciation of sin (i.e., it involves sorrow toward God for one’s sin; cf. 2 Cor 7:9; Mt 5:3-4; Ps 51), the forsaking of one’s sin (cf. Mt 3:8; Acts 26:20; Heb 6:1), and humbly surrendering one’s self to the will of God (cf. Acts 9:6 and the verses mentioned above). As Merrill Unger states in his book “Guide to the Bible” (Tyndale House, 1974), “Repentance is experienced at differ-ent levels in the believer’s life — the enormity of sin and the depth of divine compassion become more complete as one grows in the grace and knowledge of Christ.” So repent-ance follows a turning about that is a gift of God (cf. Ps 80:3, 7, 19; Jer 31:18-20; Acts 5:31; 11:18; Rom 2:4). Obviously, as true born-again believers we grow in the awareness of our fallen-ness and the waywardness of our flesh, just as the apostle Paul did (cf. Rom 7:14 - 8:1). The truth is, Paul reached the point where he knew he would never completely overcome his flesh; yet he obviously overcame it to a significant degree, because he was a man who had made incredible progress in his faith.
In Amos chapters 4-5, the Lord sends judgment in order for the nation to return to Him; corporate repentance of the nation is a theme in the book of Hosea (Hos 6:1; 14:2), and the result of Jonah’s preaching to Nineveh (Jonah 3:10). Said Solomon, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find com-passion” (cf. Prov 28:13; also Ps 32:3, 5; 1 Jn 1:9) — remember, without repentance there is no forgiveness (Mk 1:4; Lk 13:3; 24:47). So true genuine repentance not only involves a complete change of heart, but a complete reversal of thought. Classic calls to repentance are found in Ezek 18, Ezek 33, and Isaiah 55. Now, the background of the New Testament idea of repentance is actually grounded in the Hebrew word “shub,” which means “to turn back, to turn away from, or to turn toward” in the religious sense. Repentance was the keynote issue of John the Baptist’s preaching — he was referring to a complete turn from self to God (Matt 3:1, 8; Mark 1:4). A note of urgency was attached to his message: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (cf. Mt 3:2). Those people who were prepared to make a radical reorientation of their lives demonstrated it by being baptized (cf. Mk 1:4). This complete redirection of their lives was to be demonstrated by profound changes in lifestyle and relationships (cf. Luke 3:8-14). The Greek word translated “repent” (metanoia) signifies “a change of mind,” and it occurs more than fifty times in the NT. Remember, the em-phasis upon a total life change continued in Jesus’ ministry; the message of repentance was at the heart of His preaching. Stated Jesus, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15). When describing the focus of His mission, Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance;” remem- ber, self-righteous people are proud, and God is opposed to the proud… only the hum- ble acknowledge their sin, and in so doing God gives grace to them (Jam 4:6). The reality is, all life relationships must be radically altered (cf. Mt 5:17-7:27; Lk 14:25-35; 18:18-30); a rad- ical turning to God is required of all people — “Unless one repents, he will perish” (Lk 13: 3). Jesus warned of serious consequences for those who denounced His ministry; in par-ticular, He denounced the towns where most of His miracles were performed, because they did not repent (Mt 11:20); after all, here He was authenticating who He is by perform-ing signs, wonders & miracles (thus substantiating His message – cf. Acts 2:22; Mt 16:1, 4; Mk 8:11; Lk 11:16; Jn 2:18; 6:14, 30; 1 Cor 14:22; Heb 2:4; also 2 Cor 12:12); remember, Jews ask for signs (cf. 1 Cor 1:22; Mt 12:38), yet in spite of the fact that God showed them incredible signs, the vast majority of the Jewish world did not believe in Him… yet for the sinner who does repent, “there is great joy in heaven” (Lk 15:7) — imagine if you will, a fallen creature and child of the devil, renouncing Satan and turning away from both sin and Satan and em-bracing the holiness of God and Christ! Such must have been extremely overwhelming to the entire angelic world in heaven — again, here were children of the devil, completely rejecting him and warring against him!
In His final message to His disciples, Jesus demanded that the same message of repent-ance He had preached must be preached to all nations (Luke 24:47). Thus the preaching of repentance and remission of sins had to be joined to the proclamation of the cross and Jesus’ resurrection (Luke 24:44-49); keep in mind, the apostles were true to this commission (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 20:21). Obviously “man’s heart” is extremely important to Gol; all He asks of us as fallen creatures is that we acknowledge our sinfulness & place our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ with great thanksgiving for paying the price for our sins on the cross… in so doing, God makes us brand new creatures (2 Cor 5:17), that we might forever be His children and walk in newness of life (cf. Jn 3:16, 36; 6:39-40; 11:25; Gal 2:20; Eph 2:4-5; Col 2:13)… said Jesus, “My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me, and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish, and no one shall ever snatch them out of My hand” (cf. Jn 10:27-28; 1 Jn 2:25, 28; 3:1-3; ). The preaching in the book of Acts contains the call to re-pentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22). Conversely, the apostle Paul’s discourse at Athens reveals God as the one who “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30); i.e., change their mind with regard to reality, and place their trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Scripture makes it very clear that repentance is an essential element in the salva-tion experience — in response to God’s call upon one’s life, there must be repentance; i.e., the willful determination to turn from a life of sin and self rule to a life ruled by God and lived in accord with divine truth and His righteousness.
Dr. Bob Utley, a retired professor of Hermaneutics and the author of several books, and a very popular speaker in Bible conferences all over the world, stated: Though the con- cept of true repentance is crucial, it is not easy to define — as such, most people have a definition which comes from their denominational affiliation. The problem is, most denominations simplify it too much, and basically make it a little act, as if that is suffi-cient. So with that in mind, let’s look at the two Hebrews terms that were used by the Old Testament writers — “nacham” & “shub.” Rather than going too deeply into each word, let’s look at their most common usage in the Old Testament… in so doing, let’s begin with the word “nacham” — in the book of Genesis we learn that “the Lord was ‘sorry’ that He had made man because the wickedness of man was great on the earth” (cf. Gen 6:5-7); thus He destroyed the world with a flood (Gen 7-8)… “nacham” is translated “sorry” or “grieved” in those verses. It is this change of attitude and action toward God whereby this term gets such theological significance. In addition to the foregoing, when the Lord Himself raised up Judges to deal with the people of Israel, “He was ‘moved’ to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them” (Judges 2:18). Conversely, when God raised up Samuel to end the period of the Judges and inaugurate the era of the Kings in Israel, when King Saul died, “Samuel ‘grieved’ over his death” (1 Sam 15:35). Then there are the words of the psalmist regarding Israel’s rebelliousness and the Lord’s deliverances — “God remembered His covenant for Israel’s sake, and ‘relented’ according to the greatness of His loving-kindness” (Ps 106:45). Aside from the foregoing, God exhorts His people to “repent” and return to Him (cf. Ps 7:12; Is 6:10; Jer 5:3; 15:7; Ezk 14:6; 18:30, 32). You’ll notice all five of these translations (sorry, moved, grieved, relented and repent) involve deep emotion; here’s the key, in each of these verses deep feelings led to action… likewise, due punishment for sin and rebellion is forgiven if the sinner “truly ‘turns’ away from his sin and ‘turns’ to God” (essentially, repentance is a reorientation of life). With that in mind, the Hebrew word “shub” means “to turn from, to turn back, to turn to;” basically the verb means “to turn back” or “return” — it can be used of “turning from God” (cf. Num 14:32; Josh 22:16, 29; 1 Sam 15:11; 1 Kg 9:6; Jer 3:19), “turning to God” (cf. 1 Kg 8:33; 2 Chron 15:4; Ps 116:7; Is 31:6; Jer 3:12; 4:1; Amos 4:6-11), and “repenting” (cf. Hum 23:19; Job 42:6; Is 6:10; Jer 8:6; 26:3; 31:19). As Bob Utley stated in his writings for “Bible Lessons International,” genuine repentance is not so much an emotion as it is an attitude toward God; again, it is a reorientation of life from self to God, and denotes a willingness to change and be changed; in short, it is a reversal of the self-centered results of the fall in Genesis 3… thus it denotes that the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26-27), though damaged, has been restored; the truth is, fellowship with God by fallen human beings is possible again. Essentially, repentance in the Old Testament primarily means “change of action,” whereas in the New Testament it primarily means “change of mind” — both of these constructs are necessary for true biblical repentance. It is also important to note that repentance is both an initial act and an ongoing process: The initial act can be seen in [Mark 1:15], and the ongoing process can be seen in [1 Jn 1:9]. Keep in mind, repentance is not an option — as the Lord Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). John Walvoord and Roy Zuck (faculty members of Dallas Seminary) state it this way in their Book “Bible Knowledge Commentary” — “Only repentance can bring life as people prepare to enter into the kingdom.”
Though some of the foregoing may be a little difficult for one to accept, remember when translating things from one language to another, the “context” plays an extremely impor-tant role… so if you are a person who has never wrestled with two different languages, then you probably won’t appreciate all of the work that is done when translating God’s Word into another language — remember, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the New Testament was written in Greek; yet God’s Word has been translated into thou-sands of different languages in our world, including English, and our English translation is extremely good, because we have benefited from having some very good scholars who understood the languages of Hebrew and Greek in the English speaking world; obviously, God has immensely blessed the English speaking world — for the past hundred years He has been using it to bring the message of salvation to the entire world. To go back in time, once Alexander the Great conquered the entire Western World in the fourth century BC, the Greek language became the premiere language of Europe as well as the Jewish world; as such, 70 highly acclaimed Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek in the third century BC so that Jewish people could understand the Torah (i.e., the Old Test-ament); remember, very few Jews spoke Hebrew back then (or doing the time of Christ), but here was a group of 70 Jewish scholars who were well-versed in Hebrew as well as the Greek language — incidentally, this translation is referred to as “The Septuagint” (which is a derivative of the word “seventy,” because seventy scholars translated it). Incidentally, the translation was so accurate & respected by the Jewish world that Jesus Himself actually quoted from it several times — interestingly enough, “The Septuagint” is still used in our world today. Remember, the New Testament was written in Greek, because Greek was the premiere language of the day in Israel and the rest of the western world back in the first century; that was simply the language God chose to communicate the gospel to the entire world back then; remember, the work of Alexander the Great was not simply the work of a fallen creature — it was something that was ordained by God Himself, who was simply preparing the world for the message of the gospel — keep in mind, God is the author of all languages (cf. Gen 11:1-9), so He knew full well how signifi-cant the Greek language ultimately was. It is important to know that the ancient Greek language is the most definitive language in the entire world; no other language comes close it; though English is also fairly definitive, the ancient Greek language is far more definitive. If you are interested in reading more on this subject, take the time to read a study I did that is titled, “The Intertestamental Period” — simply go on to my website to access it — www.thetransformedsoul.com — and click on the “Additional Studies Link” at the top of the homepage, and then click on the “Spiritual Life Studies;” since it is only 29 pages long, take the time to read it if that subject is important to you. By the way, you can make a “printed copy” of it simply by clicking on the “icon” in the upper right-hand corner of the front page of the study (there is no charge for it).
Now just to shed a little light on “translating something from one language to another,” consider the following words — “hate” can be translated despise, reject, dislike, detest, abhor, loathe, disapprove of, not have relationship with, or be at enmity with… with that in mind, “love” can be translated esteem, like, admire, care for, adore, worship, romance, have affection for, have relationship with, and cherish. Now when large groups of schol-ars who are well-versed in the languages of Hebrew and Greek, as well as the context in which various passages were written… such individuals have the ability to rightly trans-late things. As a seminarian I obviously grew to respect the work of the Christian world’s most esteemed scholars and theologians. I can only encourage you to do the same. Now for someone to recklessly pass judgment on the most esteemed translators without under-standing Hebrew and Greek, is simply foolishness; yet that is exactly what many profess-sing Christians do in our world — they are simply completely ignorant as to what God’s Word actually teaches… in addition to that, they question the inerrancy of what Scripture teaches, as if it is not provable or necessarily true, in spite of the fact they are pretty much ignorant of the grammatical structure of the two languages; hence, they are seriously lack-ing in credibility; though they preach it, they don’t possess it — incidentally, the foregoing accurately defines the Roman Catholic Pope today (Pope Francis); in contradistinction to Pope Francis, there was Pope John Paul II (who served from 1978 to 2005) — he was a man of faith and a man of integrity who emphasized the importance of “faith in Christ;” that everyone who placed their trust in Him would be saved; thus he embraced the entire Christ-centered Christian world. To return to the subject at hand — of all the languages spoken in our world, the Grammatical structure of ancient Greek is actually unparalleled in our world — no other language is as exacting & definitive as ancient Greek was. Again, to argue to the contrary is to be completely ignorant of the foregoing — just because some-one doesn’t like some particular teaching, doesn’t make it wrong. God’s Word is not only inerrant but infallible — there isn’t a single piece of falsehood in it; remember Scripture is “God breathed” (cf. 2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet 1:20-21; Rom 15:4; 1 Cor 10:11); it is “God’s Word,” and He asks us to not only “believe it” but “obey it” (cf. Deut 30:2, 9, 10, 17; Ps 106:24; Jer 7:23; 22:5; 26:13; 32:23; Acts 5:29, 32; Heb 11:6; Jn 5:46-47; 17:17; Col 3:16). With that in mind, several questions sur-face — What else are you going to believe? and Why are you going to believe it instead? Remember the words of Paul: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known is evident within them; for God made it evident to them… they exchanged the truth of God for a lie… thus God gave them over to a depraved mind” (cf. Rom 1:18,19, 25, 28 & Eph 5:6; 2 Th 2:10-12); incidentally, the emboldened words in those verses are emphatic in Greek (with one exception, and that would be the words “suppress the truth;” I personally gave extra emphasis to them, so that you would under-stand fallen man’s problem). Beloved, one cannot change the discourse simply because it does not mesh with his or her fallen thinking; divine truth must be far more important to believers than human reason. Remember, through Divine revelation (i.e., Scripture), God communicates the mysteries of the faith, and the personal knowledge of Christ to His people; thus to diminish the truthfulness of His Word is to embrace something that is not true. Incidentally, take the time and go in to a dictionary and reflect upon the defin-itions that are given to at least a half-dozen words (you pick the words)… you’ll notice, nearly every word has multiple meanings (very few words only have a single meaning). By the way, there are 171,476 words in current use in the Oxford English Dictionary. With that in mind, consider the following two words in Scripture —
Jesus told His disciples in the Upper Room the night before He went to the cross, that He would be leaving them, and that was very troubling to them (cf. Jn 13:33-36; also 14:1-6)… He then said to them, “The Father will give you another Helper, and He will be with you forever… He is the Spirit of truth, and He will guide you into all truth” (cf. Jn 14:16-17; 14:26; 16:13). You’ll notice, God referred to the Holy Spirit as “another Helper” (by the way, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek – cf. Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7) — that word in Greek is “parakletos” and it has several meanings: it means “to help” as was just stated… it means “to comfort” (cf. 2 Cor 1:4; Eph 6:22; 1 Th 4:18; 2 Th 2:17)… it means “to encourage” (cf. Acts 11:23; Col 4:8; 1 Th 3:2; 5:11; Heb 3:13) … and it means “to exhort” (cf. 1 Cor 1:10; 4:16; 1 Th 4:1; Titus 1:9). So the Holy Spirit is often referred to as “the Encourager” & “the Helper.” Essentially, the word “parakletos” in the Greek world often refers to “being called to one’s aid.” Now, the foregoing shouldn’t be too troubling to you, because if you will take the time to contextually wrestle through all of the verses that are listed, your understanding of the Holy Spirit will be increased to a degree. To provide another Greek word for you to reflect upon, let me give you the word “tarasso” — this is simply a Greek word that is translated sev-eral different ways in English: it means “being troubled” (cf. Lk 24:38; Jn 11:33; 14:1, 27; 1 Pet 3:14)… it means “being disturbed” (cf. Acts 15:24; Gal 1:7)… it means “being frightened” (cf. Mt 14:26; Mk 6:50)… and it means “being stirred up” (cf. Jn 5:4; Acts 17:8, 13). As is the case with both “parakletos” & “tarasso,” read all of the passages that are listed, and reflect upon the “context” of each passage to see the significance of the English terms that are used — keep in mind, though some passages can use several different terms (because they are very similar), not all passages can. By the way, this is not at all some strange concept, because no two languages are alike — all languages differ; it is simply a matter of appreciating the differences. The foregoing should help you appreciate the integrity that has governed our English translation.
So to add a few more English words to the conversation, consider the following words and how they actually differ —
*Date — Her favorite fruit to eat is a date… her boyfriend took her out on a date.
*Engaged — Janet got engaged while her father was engaged in helping his son.
*Right — You were right, so make a right turn at the light.
*Rose — We rose from our seats when the President walked in, and gave him a rose.
*Type — Though John can type 100 words a minute, this guy is not my type.
*Bow — She put a bow in her hair, so please bow down before her.
*Minute — Wait a minute, that is a very minute problem.
*Wind — The wind blew hard, so wind the clock up before you go to bed.
*Left — I left my phone on the left side of the television.
*Pitcher — The baseball pitcher asked for a pitcher of water.
*Park — Our father will park the car so we can walk in the park.
*Tie — He wore a tie around his neck, yet he forgot to tie his shoelaces.
*Play — We watched a play in the theatre, but we prefer to play games.
There are over 150,000 English words with multiple meanings, and it is “the context” that determines their usage (the words just mentioned should make that very evident). Though one can almost always figure out which word is being used, simply by listening carefully to the subject being shared (i.e., the context), there are exceptional times when a word cannot be easily determined (but those times are extremely rare). Following are a few more words with multiple translations:
*Run — My dog loves to run in the park… My wife runs a very successful business. Don’t leave your engine running… I always go for a 10K run in the morning. Bob gave John a good run for his money.
*Take — Don’t forget to take an extra pair of shoes… Take a deep breath… I like chocolate but I can take it or leave it… Take it from me, she is really smart… Your son just fell down, so go and take care of him.
*Break — Be careful that don’t break your glasses… Don’t break the law… If you break the speed limit, it might cost you… Why don’t we take a break now and meet again after lunch… Last year the company broke even, yet this year they had to break their staff.
*Turn — My mother turned around and smiled at me, and told me to turn right at the next light… The weather has turned cold again… It’s my turn again to wash the dishes… The situation took a turn for the better… He did her a good turn, but then took the wrong turn… I hope I am not speaking out of turn.
*Set — He set the tray on the table, and set the alarm for 6 am… Have you set a date for the wedding? The Bank of England sets the interest rate… Dinner will be ready soon, could you please set the table?
Said a child to his father: “Can I have some pop, pop?”
FAITH AND REPENTANCE
Now, since “repentance” and “faith” are both required for salvation (cf. Mark 1:15; Luke 3:8), we must give careful consideration to both of them. Remember “nacham’ refers to the intense feelings of recognizing one’s sin and turning from it, while “shub” refers to the turning from sin and then turning to God. An example of these two spiritual actions is given to us in the book of Amos — five times God said to His people, “you have not returned to Me” (Amos 4:6, 8, 9, 10, 11)… “seek Me that you may live… seek the Lord and seek good and not evil” (Amos 5:4, 6, 14). Said the Lord to His people through the prophet Jeremiah, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (cf. Jer 29:13). A great example of the power of repentance is David’s sin with Bathsheba (cf. 2 Sam 12; Ps 32, 51). Though there were continuing consequences for David, his family, and Israel, God restored David to fellowship with Him (read the passages listed). Even Manasseh, the wicked king of Judah who did evil in the sight of the Lord, repented and was forgiven (read 2 Chron 33:1-2, 12-13). There must be a recognition of sin and a purpose- ful, personal turning from it, as well as a desire to seek God and His righteousness — as the Lord said to His people through the prophet Isaiah, “Cease to do evil and learn to do good… come let us reason together, though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow… if you consent and obey, you will eat of the best of the land… but if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword” (cf. Is 1:16-20). The deep emotion of regret turns into an abiding devotion to God. So repentance involves both turning away from sin and turning back to the Father. In ancient history God said to Israel, “Return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments” (Joel 2:12-13) — in the Old Testament, people commonly expressed great grief and anguish by tearing their cloaks (cf. 2 Sam 3:31; Lev 10:6; 21:10; Acts 22:23)… but more than caring about the “proper signs” of being upset about their sin, God cared that they actually grieved over them in their hearts. In David’s famous psalm of repentance, he reminds us that God does not delight so much in the outward signs of repentance (which included making a sacrifice), because “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; and a broken and contrite heart God will not despise” (Psalm 51:17); so the most important thing is the condition of the heart — incidentally, this attitude is missing from most repentance, yet it is the very thing God is trying to teach us. By the way, we get a broken heart when we humbly ask God to grant us true repentance, because such is the work of God (cf. Jam 4:6, 8, 10; 1 Pet 5:5-7). Remember, genuine repentance is a gift of divine origin (cf. Deut 8:16; Jer 31:3; Jn 6:39, 44, 65; 12:32; Eph 1:3, 11), and involves embracing divine truth & rejecting untruth. The truth is, the more we see God as glorious, righteous and holy, the more we will see sin as something to be despised and weep over; so repentance is less about feeling bad over our behavior, and more about feeling good about God’s love for us and His grace. The more glimpses we have of the glory of God, the more we mourn for scorning that glory. In the end, God’s plan for us is that we will be holy as He is holy (cf. 1 Pet 1:16). In the mean time, He desires a brokenhearted people who have learned to mourn over their sin. Thus with the foregoing in mind, if God is a distant presence in your life, genuine repentance will also be seriously lacking.
Again, the most common translation of repentance is “to turn from evil,” and “to turn to that which is good” — theologically speaking, the most critical ideas involve returning to God, and/or turning away from evil. If one turns away from God, apostasy is indicated. Several times Ezekiel included God’s call to the people of Israel: “Repent and turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices! I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked who dies; therefore turn back from your evil ways… repent and live” (cf. Ezek 14:6; 18:23, 30, 32; 33:11). Such a call strongly characterized the prophets. When a king’s or a nation’s sinfulness was uncovered, the prophet would call them to “repent,” reminding them of the nearness and kindness of God, yet His intolerance of wickedness and evil. Confession of sins is frequently commanded in Scripture — when one is guilty of various sins, he must confess them in order to receive atonement & forgiveness; if he doesn’t he will suffer accordingly, thus confession belongs to repentance and is needed for divine forgiveness. A great prophecy is given in the Book of Isaiah — “The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those in Israel who repent of their sins” (Is 59:20). In the New Testament, the key Greek term for repentance is metanoia — essentially, it refers to a “change of mind” and “regret and remorse” In the books of Matthew and Mark, Jesus began His public proclamation with the call to “Repent” (cf. Mt 4:17; Mk 6:12). In addition to that, the apostle Paul when ministering to Jews and Gentiles preached the need to “turn to God in repentance and have faith in the Lord Jesus” (cf. Acts 20:21; 26:20). Again, genuine repent-ance leads a person to say, “I have sinned,” and prove it with a 180-degree change of his direction. So repentance requires true brokenness, and an honest, regretful acknowledge-ment of sin with commitment to change… thus it leads one to cultivate godliness while eradicating habits that lead one to sin. Several times in Scripture God’s people are ex-horted to “turn away from that which causes them to sin” — remember the words of King Solomon to his son: “Give attention to my wisdom, and incline your ears to my under-standing… the adulterous woman does not ponder the path of life; her ways are unstable …. My son, listen to me, ‘Keep your way far from her, and do not go near her house… . less you give your years to the cruel one… and you groan at your latter end’” (Prov 5:1-11). The message ought to be clear — we must abstain from placing ourselves in situations that grievously cause us to stumble. Obviously, temptation is unavoidable, but some tempta-tions must be avoided at all costs, because of the residual effect they can have on our lives; keep in mind, involvement in certain sins can cause great damage to our lives. Solomon expressed it well: “Don’t go near her house!” The message is this: if you think you can play with sin, you’re going to pay a great price!
Though King David experienced the fullness of God’s forgiveness after he repented of his sin with Bathsheba that essentially caused the death of her husband… as previously stated, David and his family suffered greatly the rest of their lives. To somehow think that God will remove all of the negatives from our lives when we repent is completely erron-eous; think about it, do you repent so that you can remove some unpleasant experience from your life and make you a happier person? Is that why you repent? Or do you repent because something you did was completely wrong, and violated God’s will? As genuine believers, we are to embrace divine truth no matter what it costs us… life is not simply about being happy creatures, it is about aligning ourselves with God’s will (that is the chief goal for God’s people in life — if some particular thing is wrong, it is our duty as God’s children to reject it). The Christian life is not about living a self-centered life, it is about living a God-centered life (it is the unbeliever who lives a self-centered life). Let’s return to the issue of repentance — if some sinful behavior of yours causes someone to die, the truth is, they will never come back to life no matter how sorry you are for your sin… keep in mind, this principle can be applied to numerous sins — if you lose your job because of some wrong you did, you may not get it back… if you hurt a friend by lying to him, it is very unlikely that you will experience the fullness of that friendship again… if you lose all your money (i.e., a million dollars) because of some wrong you did, God may never give it back to you again; in spite of the fact that you fully repented of the wrong you may have done. The reality is, sin often has a residual effect upon our lives that God chooses to not remove, no matter how sorry we are for our sinful behavior… there may be times when we don’t even possess full guilt, yet God may choose to not remove it from our lives; thus we may have a difficult time reconciling all we are exper-iencing. Though God forgives us when we repent, He doesn’t necessarily remove the residual effect of our sins from our lives. Now for a believer to question God’s forgive-ness because he wasn’t fully reimbursed, is to completely misinterpret God’s actions. God permits His children to experience some pretty difficult things in life for a reason (not simply to get even with them). As a child of God, I suffered great financial loss in my life back about fifteen years ago (essentially, my wife and I lost everything we owned), in spite of the fact that we had been very faithful and very frugal with all the money God had previously blessed us with — ultimately the issue was this: God has so willed several things in my life to accomplish His higher purposes in and through my life; it was not a matter of God punishing me for being a grossly sinful creature (as some very remedial minds might think). Though that particular construct may be a difficult one for some of you to embrace (should you experience it in your life), you better learn to accept it as I stated it — because that defines how God operates in our lives. The Christian life is not about having everything go the way we want it to go (i.e., living life wonderfully so that we might be greatly blessed in this life; such thinking is completely unbiblical); life is about God accomplishing His purposes in and through our lives by subjecting us to everything we experience — now, though God subjects some believers to great trials in life (men like Job, Joseph, Paul & numerous others down through the centuries), other believers He only subjects to very small trials in life… and this God does for a reason, and that is to accomplish His purposes (whatever they may be). Take a moment and reflect again upon the words of Solomon to his son ( Prov 5:1-11)… well, the apostle Paul essentially said the same thing to his friend Timothy: “flee youthful lusts” (cf. 2 Tim 2:22). And then there are the words of Jesus, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands to go into hell… conversely, if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off… and if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out” (cf. Mk 9:43-47; Mt 5:27-30; 18:8-9). The message ought to be clear: if something in life is extremely difficult for you to deal with, there is always the possibil- ity that God may be telling you to make a change in your life; perhaps you need to move somewhere else… get another job… make different choices then you have been inclined to make. If that is the case, prayerfully ask God and a close friend to help guide you into making a decision; though some changes can be difficult, very few of them are impossible. Remember, God honors our decisions when we seek “His will” for our lives. With that in mind, let’s return to this thing called repentance — it obviously doesn’t just occur once in our lives when we experience salvation; repentance occurs every day in our lives because of the presence of indwelling sin (i.e., our sinful flesh), as well as the presence of Satan and the spiritual forces of wickedness, and this diabolical world in which we live. Though sin can be a very grievous reality in our lives, it is a reality every believer must wrestle with daily and keep on turning from until we enter into the eternal state; so genuine repentance occurs very frequently in the believer’s life; thus it is simply the resultant affect of the “spiritual war” that exists in our inner-core; it is a war that God has so willed for us as His children — remember, Christ died for our sins… and He wants us to die to our sins! (cf. Rom 6:11-14; 7:14-25; Gal 5:16-17; Eph 6:10-18; Phil 2:3-4; 4:6-7; Col 3:15-17; 1 Tim 1:18; 6:11-12; 2 Tim 4:7; Heb 12:4-11; Jam 4:1; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 2:11; 4:12-13; 5:10). Following is a popular prayer for daily repentance: Dear Lord, thank you for your forgiveness. Thank you for not abandoning me to my mistakes, but for reaching out instead to bring me home. Help convict me of sin and help me accept your mercy without shame. Thank you for the love you have poured out for me as one of your children. Give me the grace Lord to live out that love today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
As the pastor, teacher and Dallas Seminary graduate, Dr. Robert Deffinbaugh says in a significant article he wrote for “Bible.org” — “True repentance is a rare thing to find, even in the Bible;” yet it states the following: David said to the prophet Nathan, “I have sinned” (2 Sam 12:3)… Pharaoh twice told Moses, “I have sinned” (Ex 9:27; 10:16-17); how-ever, it was obvious to all that his was not sincere repentance… likewise Balaam said “I have sinned” when he realized he had barely escaped death at the hand of the angel of God (cf. Num 22:34); yet later biblical texts inform us that his repentance was also false. And then there was Judas, who after betraying our Lord said “I have sinned” (Matt 27:4), but Judas did not truly repent of it either. With the foregoing in mind, we must under-stand that merely saying “I have sinned” is not proof of genuine repentance; this was the case with the repentance of many who came to John the Baptist seeking to be baptized — when John saw many of the Pharisees & Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’” (Mt 3:7-9). John the Baptist raised the issue of real repentance, because he saw many whose “repentance” fell far short of the mark. Sadly, many churches today teach that repentance is simply a matter of “agreeing with God.” But their definition of repentance is simply a matter of mouthing one’s guilt, in such a way that minimizes the guilt and horror of sin; such sets one up to keep sinning nonchalantly again and again. David’s repentance was genuine, and that provides us with an example of repentance that is real (read Psalm 32 and Psalm 51 to see what true repentance really looks like). To shed more light on false repentance, let’s look at Israel’s first king, King Saul, who three times uttered the words “I have sinned” (cf. 1 Sam 15:24, 30; 26:21) — read all three of those verses, because he made some very profound statements; nevertheless, his repentance was not sufficient. When the Philistines invaded Israel in force, Saul was instructed to “wait for Samuel,” who would offer the sacrifices (cf. 1 Sam 10:8), but rather than waiting for Samuel to arrive (Saul felt the time was too short), thus he offered the burnt offering himself, only to see Samuel arrive just after he had done so. When Samuel rebuked Saul for this act of rebellion against God, Saul sought to defend himself, claiming that the circumstances merited his doing what he did; that the people were the one’s who were ultimately at fault, yet because of his reluctant confession to own up to all that had taken place, Samuel rebuked him and told him his days as king were now numbered. Only after Samuel persistently refused to accept his excuses did Saul finally confess that he had sinned (cf. 1 Sam 5:24, 30); thus, Saul’s repentance was a “reluctant repentance;” he had simply failed to take full responsibility for his sin and sought to pass off his guilt on to others. So Saul ultimately “repented” in an effort to minimize the consequences of his sin; his chief concern was that his suffering be minimized. Thus Saul sought to justify his dis-obedience as though his actions were dictated by the circumstances (cf. 1 Sam 13:11-12), and sought to blame the people for his sin, that they were the ones who were really responsible for his guilt (1 Sam 15:15, 24). As such, it should be obvious to us as believers, that we don’t have the option of defending our waywardness by the actions of other people. The reality is, we must own up to our own actions just as David did (2 Sam 12:13; Psalm 32 & 51). Said David: “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me… my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to Thee, and my iniquity I did not hide. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and You forgave the guilt of my sin” (Ps 32:3-5). Obviously as believers, God plays a very significant role in our lives, so when we sin, either we immediately own up to it, or God will put the pressure on us (read Ps 32:3-4)… there is no escape rout for us as believers.
Though sin oftentimes has its momentary pleasures (cf. Heb 11:25), ultimately the pain of guilt will effectuate a change within us… remember, God’s Spirit dwells within us, and as sin grieves Him, our spirit cannot also take great pleasure in the sin either — thus for two reasons we cannot take pleasure in it: first, because sin violates God’s law… and second, because God causes us to feel the pain for doing wrong. Remember the words of David when he sinned against Bathsheba: “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever-heat of summer… so I fully acknowledged my sin to Thee… and confessed my transgressions to the Lord” (Ps 32:3-5). The agony David experienced finally brought him to cease being silent and confess his sins; unlike Saul, David took full responsibility for his sins without any excuses, he knew full-well that what he had done was completely wrong, and that there was no acceptable excuse whatsoever that would relieve him of his guilt. Though Saul had sought to mini-mize his sin, David did the opposite — he acknowledged the fullness of his sin and took it very seriously; hence David was a man after God’s own heart… He loved God’s law and the hand of God was upon him in all that he did; thus, David prayed for a renewal of his joy in the Lord (cf. Ps 51:8, 12). Overall, David’s life is an example for us to follow (again, read Psalm 51). Remember, David didn’t simply give lip-service to what he had done, in-stead his repenting produced enduring fruit in his life. Ultimately, it is the presence of God in our lives that causes us to grieve over our sins — read Psalm 32:3-5 and you’ll see the reason why David fully repented of his sins… it is God’s divine presence in our lives that causes us to see reality for what it truly is… if God wasn’t in our lives, there is no way we would ever see reality for what it is; so His presence in our lives is mani-fested in numerous ways; said Paul, “All who are being LED by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God” (cf. Rom 8:14; 8:5-6, 9-11; Gal 3:17-18). Though the foregoing paragraphs might be questionable to some of you… what is stated is true… yet it is also true that as fallen creatures we will never completely overcome our fallenness in this life, which is a very troubling construct to most believers — remember, not even David, Peter or Paul completely overcame their fallenness. The reality is, living a perfect sinless life is not at all possible because we are not glorious creatures (cf. Jam 3:2; Ecc 7:20; Prov 24:16; Ps 38; 40:12; and 78:26). Only Christ lived a sinless life — though we are fallen creatures whom God has saved, our transformation into the very image of Christ will not fully transpire until we enter into the eternal state; at which time we will then be completely glorified and trans-formed. Meanwhile, we must fight the good fight of faith, and constantly die to our flesh, and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (cf. 2 Cor 10:5), and fully acknow-ledge our waywardness, and embrace God’s love and forgiveness no matter how grievous our sins are (beloved, you might want to read that sentence again). It should also be un-derstood, sometimes God permits us to stumble significantly; though it can be very pain-ful, in the end we will fully acknowledge our sinfulness and repent of it — remember, the premiere problem with fallen man (including believers) is that they see themselves in a far better light than they truly are… so God sometimes lets the hammer fall on them… be it by the devil, the spiritual forces of darkness & wickedness, or this corrupt diabol- ical world.
So repentance is the divinely appointed means of obtaining the forgiveness of sins and enjoying fellowship with God. It is clear from David’s psalms that when he sinned and sought to conceal his sin, there was a breach in his fellowship with God. David lost the joy of his salvation and the assurance of God’s presence in his life… however, when he repented these things returned. Thus repentance involves regretfulness, openness, trans-parency, honesty, and being genuinely sorry for one’s sin. Said Paul to the Corinthians, “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God… and such sorrow produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; whereas the sorrow of the world produces death” (cf. 2 Cor 7:9-10). Repentance is an expression of faith, and the means God has appointed for a lost sinner to receive forgiveness of sins, fellowship with God, and the assurance of eternal life. Said the Lord to the elder of the church in Pergamum, “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly, and fight against those who have embraced the teachings of the Nicolaitans” (Rev 2:12-17)… “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; thus be zealous and repent” (Rev 3:19) — beloved, that’s a pretty poignant statement… here was a group of people who had embraced a theological posi-tion that did not coincide with divine truth; so embracing untruth ultimately means God isn’t going to sit back & ignore it. Remember, Israel reaped what she sowed — when the nation was obedient, the Lord sent blessings; when it was disobedient, He sent curses (cf. Deut 28:1-2; 28:15-16). The Lord’s love for His people moved Him to discipline and reward them so that they might learn to obey Him — read the following passages: (Num 14:43; Judg 2:19-20; 3:9-12, 15; 4:1-2). The condition of eternal salvation is specified as obedience to the Law of God (Ezra 7:19-23). So repentance is a realization of the immensity of our sin (i.e., it sees sin for what it is and doesn’t minimize it), and leads to a whole new way of looking at life. As R. C. Sproul stated in his book “Essential Truths of the Christian Faith” — Repentance is a prerequisite and a necessary condition of salvation; that the change of mind involves changing the entire direction of one’s life, not simply adding a construct to our life; thus it involves turning from self & sin to Christ. So repentance is an attitude and action that must be repeated throughout the Christian life. As we continue to sin, we are called to repent — we are convicted of our sins by the Holy Spirit… it is a revulsion towards sin, so that we determine not to repeat it; yet to our chagrin, sin frequently enters into our lives. Nevertheless, repentance results in a renewed sense of God’s presence, joy in our salvation, and a strong desire to turn others from sin (cf. Ezek 18:30-32; Lk 24:46-47; Acts 20:17-21; 2 Cor 7:8-12). So genuine repentance involves deep remorse for having offended God; and the contrite person fully confesses his sin. Keep in mind, the Holy Spirit is the one who not only brings the knowledge of the gospel to us (cf. Jn 16:8-11), but convicts the world of sin (cf. Jn 16:8); without conviction man will not believe. So when faith is born into man’s heart, repentance follows. As the theologian, pastor & author of numerous books, James Montgomery Boice states in his work “Foundations of the Christian Faith” — “True biblical faith requires a moving of the heart.” Take the time to contemplate the words of David in Psalm 51 when he confessed his sins to the Lord — “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness; blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin…. Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned, and done what is evil in Thy sight…. Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me… restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners will be converted to Thee…. O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Thy praise. For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it… the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.”
Regarding the issue of “repentance,” let me quote a number of passages in Scripture that incorporate the three terms used in the Hebrew and Greek texts. Remember, these three term are expressed in several ways in Scripture — they are not only translated “repent,” but “sorry”… “grieve”… “turn”… “change”… “relent”… and “regret.” As you read the following verses, take the time to reflect upon the context and the words the translators chose — try and correlate the Hebrew & Greek words with the English words they chose. In addition to that, keep in mind the following words were “God’s communication to His people,” not simply independent divine thoughts — in order to appreciate God’s message to His people, one needs to contextually understand the fullness of it; otherwise one may be inclined to question God Himself and the integrity of His thinking (again, these words were being communicated to the hearts of His people; that’s exactly why He stated them).
· Gen 6:6-7 — The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
· Ex 32:14 — When Moses was late returning from Mount Sinai after receiving the “Ten Commandments,” God’s people gathered together all the gold rings people were wearing and made them into a “molten calf” which they worshipped; thus God described them as a corrupt obstinate people… and He became angry with them and told Moses that He was about to destroy them; Moses then entreated the Lord to not to destroy them, but turn from being angry with them, “so the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people” (cf. Ex 32:1-14).
· 1 Sam 15:11 — Said God: “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commandments.”
· 2 Sam 24:16 — When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the calamity and told the angel to relax his hand.
· Is 30:15 — Thus said the Lord to His people, “In repentance and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust is your strength, but you were not willing.”
· Jer 5:3 — Though Thou hast smitten your people, they refused to take correction; they have made their faces harder than rock and have refused to repent.
· Jer 15:6-7 — You have forsaken Me, declares the Lord; you keep going backward. So I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you; I am tired of relenting! I will bereave them of children and destroy My people; they did not turn back.
· Jer 18:8 — If that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.
· Ezek 14:6 — Thus says the Lord God to the house of Israel, “Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations.”
· Ezek 18:21 — If the wicked man turns from all his sins and observes all My statutes, and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live and not die.
· Ezek 33:14-15 — When I say to the wicked, “You will surely die,” and he turns from his sin and walks by My statutes, “he will surely live.”
· Ezek 18:30, 32 — O house of Israel, “Repent and turn away from all your trans-gressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you…. I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, therefore repent and live.”
· Matt 3:8 — Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
· Matt 4:17 — Thus saith the Lord, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
· Luke 5:31-32 — I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
· Luke 13:3 — I tell you, unless you repent, you will perish.
· Acts 3:19 — Repent and return to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.
· Acts 10:21 — I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.
· Acts 11:18 — Even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.
· Acts 17:30 — God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent.
· Rom 2:4 — God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.
· Rom 2:5 — Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath.
· 2 Pet 3:9 — The Lord is patient, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
· Rev 2:4-5 — Said the Lord to the church in Ephesus, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place — unless you repent.”
TEMPTATION PRECEEDS REPENTANCE
Where there is no sin, there is no need for repentance… and where there is no temptation, there is no sin. So “temptation” is where all the negatives of life begin, and temptation is a by-product of our “flesh” — without the flesh there would be no temptation. The reason we end up embracing certain temptations in life, is because our flesh “insists” on our do-ing so; the reason our likes and dislikes and lusts and desires are problematic, is because our flesh strongly expresses itself on everything in life of which it has a strong opinion. So we cave into temptation because our flesh expresses its feelings about the issue, and our flesh always embraces that which is contrary to the will of God — what is important to remember, is the fact that our flesh strongly influences our feelings. So temptation essen-tially is a strong enticement to do evil; i.e., do that which does not conform to God’s will. Remember, Satan tempted Adam, Eve, Cain, Abraham, David and every other human being to sin. James, the brother of Jesus, described temptation as “being carried away and enticed by our own lust / fleshly desires” (cf. Jam 1:14; also cf. Rom 6:6; Eph 4:22; Col 3:9; 2 Cor 5:17); so the origin of temptation is attributed to man’s fallen nature; therefore all temptation is common to man (1 Cor 10:13). For one to say that his temptations aren’t that significant in his life is not true! All he is doing is trying to convince others that he is a wonderful person whom God greatly admires… which is sheer lunacy! Remember, “God shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all” (Rom11:32); those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek. The truth is, there is not a single person in the history of the world who possessed righteousness; none whatsoever — Christ’s righteousness was attributed to us when we placed our trust in Christ as our Savior (cf. Gen 15:6; Rom 4:30); beloved, we were not “justified” (i.e., declared righteous) by the works of the Law (cf. Rom 3:28; 5:1; Gal 2:16; 3:11). By the way, for one to believe that he is “good” is to actually minimize Christ’s love for us and the cross (cf. Lk 18:19; Rom 3:10-20). The reality is, every human being was a child of the devil and a fallen sinful creature in need of the redemptive work of Christ on the cross to pay for his sins… to justify him before the Lord… and to ultimately rid him of his sinfulness and transform Him into the image of Christ. Now, though Christ died for us, He has not yet removed our flesh from our lives… as such it still has a very strong presence in our lives that causes a great deal of consternation in our soul; yet as frus-trating as that can be, God loves us with an everlasting love (read all of Ps 136). In spite of the fact that our innate sinfulness has a very strong presence in our lives, and is often very distressing to us, does not cause God to judge us harshly & question His love for us; keep in mind, God new full-well that our sanctification and transformation wasn’t going to be a pleasant experience and a little joy-ride; He knew it would be a very difficult issue for us because of our fallenness. Are you giving careful consideration to what is being said? Though we are still sinful creatures, our sins do not negatively affect God’s love for us! The reality is, as sinners we simply cannot fully fathom God’s love for us, because we are completely unworthy of His love. Beloved, if there is anything we must never question, it is God’s love for us! Again, our problem as human beings is that we have a very difficult time reconciling God’s love for us because of our fallenness, our unworthiness, and our sinfulness. The foregoing has been stated several times because of our seeming inability as fallen creatures to believe that God loves us unconditionally when anger, frustration and sin reigns in our lives; so it is during times like this that we must constantly affirm God’s love for us — though we may question His love, yet after humbly repenting and pouring out our heart to the Lord, God will make His love for us an absolute reality in our hearts and minds; remember, God gives grace to the humble (Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5); thus if you will humble yourself before the Lord, He will graciously minister “grace” to your heart (remember, the word “grace” means “undeserved favor;” so to somehow make the deduction that you must merit His grace is nothing but satanic thinking; beloved, if there is one thing that Satan cannot fathom it is the fact that God loves fallen man!
Now as born-again believers who are now indwelled by the Holy Spirit, Christ asks us to withstand the temptations of our flesh and glorify Him in our bodies; which He pur-chased with His blood (1 Cor 6:20). So that’s one of the premiere goals for us as believers: “we are not to give in to our fleshly temptations.” James, the brother of Jesus, said, “A blessing awaits those who endure temptation” (Jam 1:12). Yet in spite of how wonderful that promise is, resisting temptation is no easy task, and if there’s anyone who knows that it is Christ, “who was tempted in all ways such as we are; therefore He sympathizes with our weaknesses” (Heb 4:15); remember, He knows our frame and is mindful that we are but dust! (Ps 103:14). With that in mind, He asks us to “wage war against our flesh, and not let it rule in our lives” (cf. Rom 7:22-25; 8:12-13; 13:14; 1 Pet 2:11; 1 Tim 6:12; 2 Tim 4:7); said Paul, “The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another… so walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16-17); essentially, walking in the Spirit means to be in communion with Him and occupied with Christ, because the Spirit’s ministry is to engage the believer with the Lord Jesus. The only consistent way to overcome the sinful desires of our human nature (i.e., our flesh), is to make decisions in the light of Christ’s holiness and be occu-pied with Him — in so doing, the Holy Spirit then gives us victory over our sinful nature; remember, the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in our lives that we might experience a transformed life and be the people God wants us to be… without His presence in our lives, we would not become the people God wants us to be; thus we must continuously be mindful of His presence in our lives and share our hearts with Him. Said the apostle Paul, “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” (cf. Col 1:27; 2 Cor 13:5). As the highly respected preacher at Moody Church in Chicago, Dr. Warren Wiersbe, said in his work “The Bible Exposition Commentary” — “We don’t fight the flesh & the self-life with our own strength or by our own will (that would be a contradiction), we fight the flesh by walking in the Spirit… [thus] the solution is not to put our will against the flesh, but surrender our will to the Holy Spirit.” It should be clear to every believer, we all desperately need the Holy Spirit’s help in our lives, if we are going to walk in the light and not in the dark; the need to walk in the Spirit should be very evident to us as believers, because our flesh and the self-life often rule in our lives. The reality is, we are not glorious creatures! We are sinful creatures — saved yes, but sinful nonetheless. Jesus didn’t DIE for us because we were delightful creatures whom He liked; He died for us because He is an incredibly LOVING GOD, and His loving us has noting to do with our being loving creatures… it has only to do with His being loving! The fact that Jesus LOVED us so much that He would DIE for us, simply defies human logic, and shows us how incredibly wonderful our God is; not a single person has ever merited “a single ounce of God’s love!” Remember, we were all “children of the devil!” Thus, we were all totally sinful creatures without an ounce of good in us! It is the nonsensical thinking of fallen man that sees things in a different light; though man admits he is not perfect, he does not at all see himself for who he truly is (a diabolical sinner who is completely evil & unholy; remember, that which is evil “misses the mark and does not at all coincide with divine truth;” thus, fallen human thinking is absolutely antithetical to divine truth).
Keep in mind, all temptations are permitted by God, who controls all things in our lives; remember, everything has a purpose in God’s economy — nothing occurs that God does not fully approve of (no matter how ugly it may appear to be). To deny the sovereignty of God, is to change God’s divine revelation as He has clearly stated it in Scripture; yet that is not at all uncommon for fallen man’s deductions — he simply elevates himself and diminishes God (again, man is a fallen creature, not a glorious creature; thus he doesn’t coincide with divine truth; the reality is, divine truth is repulsive to him). Now, though we as believers don’t know all of God’s purposes in life (that is simply what it means to be finite creatures); nevertheless, as believers we have the capacity to believe in the wonder and the greatness of our Creator (because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives), in spite of the fact that we don’t fully understand it… remember, it is the Holy Spirit who opens our hearts and minds to believe; believing is not the product of human thinking! Said the wisest man whoever lived, King Solomon (1 Kng 3:12): “I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with” (cf. Ecc 1:13; also Ecc 2:17). According to God, Solomon was the wisest man whoever lived in this world or whoever will live (1 Kg 3:12). As human beings “reality” is never going to be completely understood (not even close) — why is that? because it is the work of our infinite, omni-scient GOD; if it was the work of some little finite creature, that would be one thing, but reality is the work of our eternal infinite God, and divine wisdom vastly exceeds human wisdom. It is only arrogant man who insists that he is far smarter than he is; incidentally, this particular subject often causes me to quote one of the greatest scientists in history, Albert Einstein — “The scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation… His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.” The truth is, fallen finite arrogant men will never come to know reality for what it really is, because GOD only gives humble men the grace to understand divine truth… remember, GOD is strongly opposed to arrogant people; thus He only gives grace to the humble (cf. Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5).
Now if man was an incredibly brilliant creature, that would be one thing; but being that he is an extremely small finite creature (relatively speaking) with a very small mind, he doesn’t have the ability to make judgments concerning things like ultimate reality, be-cause such would require a level of intelligence that far exceeds the minds of men… so this thing called ultimate reality is simply not knowable to man. The truth is, there are numerous things that fallen man cannot know, because he simply does not have the capacity to think more than an inch deep (in particular when dealing with matters like ultimate reality). In order to shed light on this subject, put a “quarter” in your hand… when you look at it just a few inches away, it may appear to be fairly significant to you; but should you place it on the ground and back away about fifty feet from it, you will notice it is actually extremely small, when you compare it with other parts of the world that now dominate your vision. Again, though man thinks he is a pretty smart creature when his thoughts rule in his mind, and the quarter dominates his vision, yet should he then try to contemplate the depth of reality by backing away from the quarter, he will then see how “extremely limited” his thinking really is — that was precisely why Albert Einstein called human thinking mere insignificant reflection. Remember, the thinking of our eternal omniscient GOD is infinite and endless, not at all limited in any way, and it was His mind that controlled exactly how everything was created; the truth is, there is no end to God’s mind, it goes on & on adinfinitum… essentially His thinking is trillions of miles deeper then all other creatures combined (including the entire angelic world); in actuality trillions of miles doesn’t even identify the depth of God’s thinking, because there is no end to it (I simply identified it as trillions miles deep just to let you know that His thinking is so immense it is unfathomable. By the way, that should not be a difficult construct for any true believer to embrace… it is only problematic for the unbeliever, be- cause it does not coincide with his finite fallen thinking — since God has not opened the hearts and minds of unbelievers, all they know is what their fallen fleshly minds think. To define such thinking, all one needs to do is look at our diabolical political world — it constantly makes absolutely foolish deductions, and more often than not does not even fully consider both sides of an equation (i.e., both its pros and cons); instead, it simply makes radical judgments that are not only foolish and devoid of knowledge, but are sim-ply the product of supra-limited fallen fleshly thinking. Obviously there are a number of ways to look at ultimate reality in our world, and one of them is to look at the cellular structure of all the physical elements that exist in our world; incidentally, the scientific world believes “cells” are the smallest unit that exists in living organisms. Though some cells are almost invisible, that doesn’t mean they are the smallest element in the created order. Just because man only has the capacity to see things an inch deep, doesn’t mean the cell is the sum-total of physical reality. The truth is there may be thousands of items in a cell that man simply cannot fathom. Because of the limitations of the human mind, man simply does not have the capacity to see the fullness of something; he not only can-not understand the eternality of the entire created order (remember, it goes on & on & on into outer space — there is no end to it; for arguments sake, if there is an end to it, what’s on the other side of that end?). Keep in mind, that same argument can be applied to the smallest physical realities in the universe — just because man only has the capacity to fathom something that essentially is visible, doesn’t mean that nothing exists that is a million times smaller then what fallen man can attest to. Now though the foregoing is a very poignant subject, it is one fallen man needs to consider — should he not, he will simply deceive himself and elevate his own fleshly thinking. Reality must play an ex-tremely important role in man’s life; if it doesn’t he will end up minimizing reality and embracing untruth.
To give a little more consideration to this subject, reflect upon the following question: Does every physical thing that exists in the universe “possess a supra-small physical item”? (i.e., do all physical elements possess a foundational item that God used to create that particular object?); obviously, only God Himself can answer that question. Though reality seems to suggest that there is no end to what God has created (i.e., that it is com-pletely unlimited — be it space or mass)… reality seems to suggest that there is no end to outer-space (that it goes on & on adinfinitum)… and that the foundation of the physical universe itself may also be without limits. The issue is this — “Does the entire created order fully reflect our eternal Creator?” “Does everything go on and on adinfinitum, be it space or mass?” Though those are fascinating questions, we do not have the ability to fully understand or answer them. The truth is, it is our finite thinking that ultimately limits our understanding of reality. If we had a 150 IQ (i.e., an Intelligent Quotient of 150), which very few people possess, we might think we are fairly brilliant creatures; but if ultimate reality requires that we have at least a 150 Trillion IQ to understand the fullness of anything in the created realm, obviously our little 150 IQ essentially is mean-ingless when it comes to understanding ultimate reality. The truth is, in all likelihood, cells probably possess something that finite man may never be able to see or understand, because there may be depths to them that may involve countless thousands or millions of items) — keep in mind, not even when we enter into God’s eternal state will we fully understand everything, because we will never possess an infinite mind (i.e., we will never possess the mind of God) — the truth is, God may have created things with so much depth that they actually contain millions of items (what is important for us as human beings is that we not make God out to be a little creature like us — remember, He is an infinite eternal, omniscient, omnipotent God; and none of us can comprehend any of those char-acteristics; the important thing is that you not make Him LESS than He is!). Just because man discovered this thing called a “cell” a few hundred years ago, doesn’t mean he dis-covered the smallest thing in existence; though that was man’s initial assumption, that is no longer the case in the scientific world — they now see the physical realm as something that possesses far more stuff then finite man can even contemplate. The truth is, the depth of this physical universe in which we live is now admittedly unknown to man, because he now understands his limitations and the fact that he does not possess the ability to rightly discern everything that exists. It took men like Albert Einstein to humble the scientific world and let them know that the fullness of physical reality vastly exceeds the minds of men… yet there are still a number of arrogant men here in our world (in particularly the proud diabolical western world), who insist on giving some false definitions to reality — Why is that? because they absolutely hate Christ & His Word (i.e., God’s self-revelation to mankind). Beloved, with all of the foregoing in mind, remember what God’s Word has to say: “Due to the fact fallen man does not honor God for who He is, he suppresses the truth in unrighteousness, and God darkens his foolish heart. Professing to be wise, he essentially becomes a fool, and God gives him over to a depraved mind” (cf. Rom 1:18-28). Keep in mind, the diabolical qualities of the left are these — they despise divine ethics, they are anti-Christ, they are pro-abortionists, arrogant, self-centered, perverse, and profane; incidentally, many leftists are now even abandoning this thing called marriage. With the foregoing in mind, remember it is GOD who dictates what is going to happen in our world, and ultimately brings serious judgment on those who reject divine truth, re- gardless of what any juvenile mind might think; remember, “God has declared the end from the beginning!” (cf. Is 46:9-11; 43:10-13; Eph 1:3-6, 11). Now you can pass judgment on everything that was said in the last two paragraphs, but whether or not your judgmental assumptions possess any integrity or correspond with divine reality, that remains to be seen (incidentally, that’s all that counts in life). Regarding this world in which we live, one thing is sure — it is vastly becoming more and more corrupt every day (which is precisely how Scripture defines the end of the age), and it is then that God is going to seriously judge the arrogant, self-centered, unbelieving world.
Knowing that God is “sovereign” is a great encouragement to the believer, because he knows that nothing can separate him from God’s love (Rom 8:31-39) — remember, God is able to take rebellious sinners (i.e., children of the devil) and turn them into the image of Christ when they place their trust in Him (which is also the work of God – Acts 16:14). The Bible is filled with statements that God not only reigns supreme in all the earth, but that He reigns supreme in the lives of believers (cf. Eph 3:20-21; Phil 3:21; Jude 1:24- 25; 1 Coir 10:13; 2 Cor 9:8; 2 Tim 1:12; Heb 2:18); therefore, if God is for us, who can be against us? (cf. Rom 8:31). Satan is nothing but an absolute fool in God’s eyes, and is not at all a threat to Him in any way; so to somehow think that Satan is a somewhat co-equal creature to God is complete nonsense (that is simply the product of fallen-human thinking). Beloved, if the infinite eternal nature of God is a difficult construct for you to embrace, at least take the time to study it in depth, because it clearly defines the infinite God of creation. Now, though our finite fallenness can really cause consternation in our souls, not a single sin by any child of God will cause God to reject him! In spite of the fact that we as fallen creatures will stumble often in life as believers, GOD is going to complete the work He has begun in us (Phil 1:6). Said the Lord Jesus to His disciples the night before He went to the cross — “Of those whom the Lord has given Me, I lose not one” (Jn 18:9); incidentally, the words “not one” are emphatic in Greek. GOD is not going to toss one of His children into hell! That would be a complete contradiction of what Scripture teaches; so either you are going to embrace human thinking or divine thinking… by the way, in the end divine thinking will prove itself to be TRUE TO EVERY CREATURE who ever lived, “and EVERY KNEE will bow and confess that Jesus Christ is LORD to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11); again, that emboldened word “Lord” is emphatic in Greek! So either you embrace the fullness of divine truth as one of God’s children, and experience the wonder of it in this life, or you are going to struggle significantly with all you go through in life (because you do not humbly embrace the significance of God’s love); so should you just continue to be- lieve a theology of thought that does not correspond with Scripture (if indeed you are truly a believer), you will still ultimately enter into the eternal state. Obviously, that statement may be a little perplexing to some of you, but that does define reality — in order to give contextual understanding to what it means, it’s important to remember there is not a sin-gle believer in the world who walks on water or has a nearly perfect faith and is deserv-ing of glory… the reality is, we all stumble as believers, and have a very difficult time overcoming our flesh, yet after a lifetime of fighting with our flesh, God is going to take us into the eternal realm. As Peter stated, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Pet 5:10); incidentally, that emboldened word is emphatic in Greek. Obviously our faith and our relationship with Christ all began with Him — it wasn’t the product of our own thinking and our own desire; it was all the work of God! Now, though none of us as believers are “super-strong spiritually,” that does not at all nullify the work of God in our lives (read Rom 8:28-39) — remember, God saved us to transform us into the image of His Son, and our transformation is still a long way off; nevertheless, God is going to complete it! (cf. Phil 1:6). Beloved, the eternal security of the believer is an absolute that is given in Scripture (cf. Jn 6:39-40, 44; Rom 5:10; 8:28-39; Eph 1:13-14; Phil 1:6; Heb 7:25); since that indeed is true, when a believer embraces that truth, it strongly affects the way in which he lives his life… it is then that he lives to the praise and glory of his Savior and Lord, and stops minimizing His love for him. The problem many belie-vers have is that they don’t experience much of God’s peace & joy in life, because their faith is not grounded in absolute truth — remember, it is extremely important for us as believers to “affirm divine truth,” and not simply let it pass from our minds (cf. Heb 10:23; 11:1, 6; 12:2; Ps 25:5; 51:6; 119:151, 160; Rom 1:18; 2 Pet 3:18).
Now once we “repent” and acknowledge our sin before the Lord, we are to walk in the light with Him… we don’t simply deduce that since the slate is now clean we are now free to do our own thing — that does not at all mesh with divine truth. God’s call upon our lives is that “we walk in the light, not in the dark… that we walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4 and 1 Jn 1:7)… “that we walk according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh” (Rom 8:4); “that we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7)… “that if we walk by the Spirit we will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16, 25)… “that if we seek the knowledge of spiritual wis-dom we will then walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, and please Him and bear fruit in every good work” (Col 1:9-10)… “that we walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called… that we walk in love just as Christ also loved us… and that we walk as children of light” (Eph 4:1; 5:2, 8; also 1 Th 2:12). As the apostle John said, “if we walk in the light as God is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7); keep in mind the emboldened words in that last verse are emphatic in Greek. Now, with all of the foregoing in mind, where do we go from here? Let’s start with the following: “Temptation” is a strong desire to embrace a fleshly thought (give very careful consideration to that definition). No one is tempted to embrace something their flesh does not desire; i.e., none of us are tempted to eat bugs or drink gasoline. The truth is, for a person to deny that he suffers from temp-tation is absolute nonsense, because every person has a fleshly inner-core that essentially reacts to basically everything that goes on in their life — when we experience something that is painful, our flesh will reject it… when we experience something that is troubling, our flesh will reject it… when we experience a problem of sorts, our flesh will reject it… when we experience something that is frustrating, our flesh will reject it… when we ex- perience something that is a negative, our flesh will reject it. Conversely, if we experi-ence something that is enticing or desirable to our flesh, it will embrace it; that is simply how our flesh operates — it gives its opinion any time its values are being challenged or revealed. It does not keep its mouth shut! By the way, all of us have several things that really disturb us in life (i.e., that grossly disturb our flesh); hence, we are being tempted over and over again every day of our lives… incidentally, when negatives start to rule in our lives (just as they did in Job’s life), that’s when God is doing His greatest work to grow our faith; and that means “it is time to war against our inner-core (i.e., against our flesh) — in spite of the fact that it is not at all easy, we are to fight the good fight of faith!” Keep in mind, God knows full well that wrestling with our flesh is not at all easy; never-theless, it is an action we must fully embrace; the reality is, if the desires of our flesh were not at all problematic to us, war wouldn’t be an issue… but since our inner-core is prone to embrace fleshly values (i.e., embrace our own humanistic values), war is not at all an easy construct; because we are denying ourselves things we actually “want!” Now with the foregoing in mind, it is important to understand the difference between the Flesh and the Spirit — essentially, the dynamic of the flesh is “feeling,” and the dynamic of the Spirit is “faith” (i.e., divine truth) and there is a drastic difference between the two. With our flesh we simply let our feelings rule in our minds; yet due to the fact the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in our hearts, we must let divine truth dictate reality in our lives; in so doing we will then live by faith. And since faith is grounded in the truths of Scripture (i.e., God’s Self-revelation), one must study it to understand it and embrace it and obey it and please the Lord; i.e., to let God’s Word rule in our hearts. Remember, “Without faith (i.e., without believing God’s Word and acting upon it) it is not possible to please God” (cf. Heb 11:6).
Now due to the fact divine truth is not necessarily easy for any fallen creature to fully un-derstand, that doesn’t mean we should ignore it and travel down the wrong road… in so doing, God will hold us accountable. Keep in mind, every believer understands divine truth to a degree, and that degree insists on embracing moral truths and walking in the light. Beloved, God gave us minds with which to think, and think we must! And being that we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts, we have the capacity to appreciate divine truth to a significant degree. It is one thing for unbelievers to ignore God’s Word, but quite another for believers to ignore it — keep in mind, Scripture is God’s self-revela-tion to man; though the fool in life rejects it, God’s people must embrace it and obey it! Incidentally, for those believers who ignore much of what God’s Word says, there is go-ing to come a day when God is going to question them, “Why did you ignore my Word? Why wasn’t your salvation significant to you? Why did you treat My Word so lightly? Why wasn’t divine truth of great importance to you?” Though every believer will ulti-mately enter into the eternal state when his life here on earth is over, for a short period of time some believers will actually suffer shame for treating God & His Word so lightly (cf. 1 Cor 3:12-15; 2 Cor 5:10; 1 Jn 2:28). It’s difficult to imagine being so ashamed as to how one lived his life, and how shallow his commitment to Christ was in this life, that he will not even be able to look Christ in the eye at the end of the age when Christ looks at him (read 1 John 2:28); beloved, can you even imagine the pain that some believers are going to feel when they stand before God at the “judgment seat of Christ”? — remember, that’s the Judgment Seat for the believing world, not the unbelieving world (2 Cor 5:10). Obviously, many believers have not even heard of that (that’s how remedial their faith is). Beloved, for your sake give careful attention to the foregoing — the question is, are you taking your faith and your relationship with God seriously? Or are you so preoccupied with this worldly life, that Christ is almost a non-player in your life? With the foregoing in mind, since we are no longer little children (such behavior might be excusable if that were still the case), now that we are grown adults “as believers we must take the time to humbly contemplate divine truth and study what God’s Word teaches and embrace it” — keep in mind, Scripture is God’s self-revelation to man… to treat His Word lightly or ignore it, essentially is to reap accordingly; again we’re talking about God’s Word (not man’s word), thus we must give very careful attention to what He has to say; sadly, most belie-vers do not take the time to study His Word. Furthermore, since most churches do not preach the fullness of what Scripture teaches, those who attend those churches are some-what like sheep without a shepherd (cf. Mk 6:34; Mt 9:36). Beloved, it’s important to remember the most important thing in life is “believing divine truth;” to not believe it is to suffer the consequences (cf. Jn 17:17; 2 Tim 3:16-17; Heb11:6; 2 Pet 2:18). Though some of us can get angry when considering some of the negative thing others have subjected us to, and may even want to drop the ax on them, that is not an option for us as God’s children — that’s God’s work, not ours. As the Lord said numerous times in Scripture: “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone… never take your own revenge… leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay!’” (cf. Rom 12:17-19; Heb 10:30). Beloved, those are very sober words; don’t treat them lightly; by the way, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek.
Now, with all of the foregoing in mind, remember, our faith ultimately needs to exceed the most painful negatives we experience in life, and that doesn’t happen with just a little prayer; it also requires fighting against our flesh, and therein is the rub. If God simply responded to all of our prayers like we want Him to, temptation would never be a very difficult issue for us… just because we cry out to God to eliminate the problem and take it out of our lives, doesn’t mean that He is going to do that (in most cases He will not). Beloved, we have a war to fight, and fight it we must; we cannot simply assume that our heart’s desire is going to be fulfilled (that would make the Christian faith and the Christian life a piece of cake). Though many churches teach that God will eliminate our negatives when we share our hearts with Him, that does not at all coincide with what Scripture teaches. The night before Jesus went to the cross, He told His disciples, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33); again, that emboldened word is emphatic in Greek. Beloved, if God simply responded to us with positives, our faith would never become the faith God wants it to be! The reality is, “Can you trust divine truth when you are experiencing pain and suffering and affliction and trials and tribulation and negatives?” The truth is, when life is not pleasant it is difficult, and if there is anything we insist on in life, it is an easy, pleasant, comfort-able life (i.e., a life without sin and negatives, because such simply causes consternation in our soul). If you will reflect upon a number of the psalms in Scripture, you’ll notice God frequently didn’t respond to His servants nearly as quickly as they wanted Him to (cf. Ps 10:1; 13:1; 22:1; 55:1-6); however, being as God is GOD, He obviously had a reason for not immediately comforting His people… though they were men of faith, God wanted to grow their faith, and that meant subjecting them to various difficulties in life — such is no different today in the Christian world (cf. 1 Pet 1:6-7; 4:12; 5:10; Phil 1:29; Jam 1:2-4).
THE FLESH AND THE SPIRIT
The following three paragraphs are extremely important for us as believers to fully under-stand and embrace, so take the time to humbly read them very carefully that you might greatly grow your faith. Since Sin is always a difficult construct for believers, give very careful consideration to what is written. Beloved, keep in mind it is “our flesh” that is the premiere problem for us as believers; our fallen human nature is not at all capable of con-forming to God’s holy expectations (cf. Rom 7:5, 18; 8:3-9; Gal 3:3); thus it is our flesh that gives sin a foothold in our lives (cf. Rom 8:3-4, 9; Gal 3:3; 5:16). Remember, our flesh and the Spirit are in conflict with each other; therefore as believers we must deny sinful desires and cooperate with the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 8:13; Gal 2:19-21; Col 3:5). The reality is, “our flesh sets its desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh — they are in opposition to one another” (cf. Gal 5:17). When we experience strong negatives in live, our flesh immed-iately questions God (be it His love for us, His acceptance of us, His disappointment with us), and due to the fact that most believers don’t see themselves as being a dichotomy of two people, they have a very difficult time understanding all that is going on in their life. Remember as believers we possess the old self and the new self (cf. Eph 4:22-24)… the flesh and the spirit (cf. Rom 6:1-14; 7:18-23; 2 Cor 5:17), as well as the devil’s presence and the Holy Spirit’s presence (cf. Rom 5:5; 8:9-11; 1 Cor 3:16; Eph 6:10-17; Col 1:27; 2 Tim 1:14; 1 Jn 4:13); the reality is, believers possess two natures — a sinful one and a righteous one; as such when belie-vers stumble and sin, they frequently blame it on their lack of faith rather then on their flesh. Beloved, though we are not men and women of great faith, we must fight the good fight of faith that God has given to us (cf. 1 Tim 6:12; Eph 2:8-9), and humbly set our minds on the things of the Spirit that we might walk according to the Spirit (Rom 6:1-14); in so doing, we will grow in our faith and increasingly overcome our flesh; remember, it is our flesh that is the ultimate cause of sin in our lives (Rom 7:14-8:5). Beloved, no matter how much faith you have, your flesh is always going to express itself in a very negative way — remember the dichotomy that exists in you — you are both a man of flesh and a man of spirit, and absolutely nothing good dwells in your flesh (no matter how wonderful a saint you may think you are – Rom 7:18). Though as believers we have all grown to despise our flesh, nevertheless our flesh oftentimes grabs hold of the wheel and at times rules in our lives for a few moments. Said the apostle Paul, “Since I often do not practice the things I would like to do… I am no longer the one doing it, but my sinful flesh which dwells in me” (Rom 7:15-17). Obviously our flesh is a very sobering reality in our lives, so it is one we must acknowledge and fight against as we walk through life in this world. Keep in mind, in the book of Romans Paul spoke frankly about his constant strugle with the on-going power of his flesh, and the sincere intensions of his will to live a life of obedience to Christ (Rom 7:19); even though he was a Christian dedicated to serving God, he continued to fall short of God’s moral standards; again, keep in mind NONE OF US measure up to God’s perfect standards. Obviously being fleshly creatures who frequently stumble and sin, mystifies all of us to some degree; though we all hate our flesh, it often has a way of controlling the didactic in our mind that we are wrestling with. Beloved, it is absolutely important to remember that we are not men and women of great faith (none of us walk on water!), we are fallen creatures with faith in a great God; the reality is, we don’t fully understand our nature as fallen creatures — though we are now saved creatures, we are still creatures who possess fallen flesh (God never removed it from us when we placed our faith in Christ and became His children), and it is a lot more difficult to fully understand then believers think. That’s why as believers we often find ourselves defeated, not at all doing what we want to do; though we desire to do good, oftentimes we don’t do good; so our ability to perform is lacking. Though most of us as believers wish goodness reigned in our lives, it doesn’t because of the presence of our sinful flesh. The truth is, as fallen creatures we really don’t have full command of everything that is going on in our lives — the apostle Paul himself said, “he was not able to fully examine himself… though he wasn’t aware of any particular wrong, yet he knew that wasn’t sufficient to acquit him, that the one who examines him is the LORD” (cf. 1 Cor 4:3-4). As you will recall, numerous times I mentioned that our flesh has a very profound presence in our lives and always voices its opinion, and because we are not men and women of great faith, we frequently stumble and capitulate to our flesh. So Paul ultimately posed the question, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24). Paul recognized that as long as he was in his mortal body he would face the conflict of indwelling sin and be defeated in his own strength. Thus Paul answered with great confidence, “Thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Though with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, yet with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin” (Rom 7:25). So essentially Paul broke forth in jubilant praise to God knowing that there is absolute victory through Jesus Christ who ultimately is going to deliver us from the body of this death — again, God sympathizes with our weaknesses and the presence of indwelling sin in our lives, yet He asks us to fight the good fight of faith by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the author & perfecter of our faith, and keep in mind that none us have resisted to the point of shedding blood in striving against sin (Heb 12:4) — thus we must draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that you might receive mercy and grace to help in time of need (cf. Heb 4:15-16; 12:1,2). Beloved, keep in mind, you are fighting a war that will never end while you are walking through life in this world.
Now just as believers are identified with Christ in His death and resurrection by faith, so they will one day join their resurrected and exalted Lord for all eternity in new bodies, forever free from the presence of sin (cf. Rom 8:23; Phil 3:20-21); yet in this life to a degree we are still somewhat enslaved to our sinful nature (Rom 7:14). While awaiting freedom from the complete presence of sin, we still have conflicts between our regenerated minds and our old sin nature. The reality is, though we as believers struggle with our flesh, we are not fully compelled to live according to it (like the unbeliever does). The “key” to overcoming the flesh is not simply a matter of hating our flesh, or desiring to obey God, or asking God to quell the flesh, the key issue is “walking by the Spirit” (Gal 5:16). That’s why Paul said, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (i.e., its desires; Rom 13:14). To the Ephesians he said, “Lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit… and put on the new self which was created in the righteousness of Christ” (cf. Eph 4:22-24; Rom 6:4; 2 Cor 5:17; Col 3:10); remem-ber, your flesh is not in a state of getting better; it is actually becoming more & more cor-rupt as we grow older (again, read the verses that were just listed); this should not be a difficult construct for you to understand; our flesh is obviously far worse today then it was when we were children — FAR WORSE! So just as our faith grows as we grow older, so also does our flesh (did you hear that?). So we must fight against our flesh throughout our entire life, knowing that it will do anything it can to rule in our lives; but because we are older and more mature in the faith, we have the capacity to fight against it with greater success; though this battle is not easy, neither is it impossible — we must simply determine to humbly walk with Christ in this life (i.e., walk in the Word and walk in the Spirit). With that in mind, remember the words of John, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world… All that’s in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father but is from the world, and the world and all its lusts are passing away” (1 Jn 2:15-17); beloved that word “world” is emphatic in Greek. The reality is, that which is in the world is actually diabolical trash! Though that is not an easy construct for many believers to accept, that is the essence of divine truth; remember, the entire world was “cursed” when Adam & Eve sinned, and everything in the world now reflects the curse, be it human beings, animals, fish, bugs, and all the foliage, stars and planets that exist; thus, the entire universe is on a downward plight (i.e., it is dying; and it is only a matter of time until the universe is completed dead) — incidentally, over the last 150 years the scientific world finally came to an understanding of this truth and now fully embrace it; it is referred to it as the “Second Law of Thermodynamics.” Yet in spite of that fact, most people in the scientific world do not know that it is the result of God’s Divine Curse on the entire created order back at the beginning of human history when Adam & Eve sinned (cf. Gen 3:17-19; Jer 12:4, 11; Ecc 1:2; Rom 8:19-25). So “physical reality that possesses integrity of thought can actually coincide with divine truth at times.” Now regarding the life God has called us to live, as believers we must determine to live godly lives and not turn our freedom into an “opportunity for the flesh” (Gal 5:13). So the goal in life for the believer is to be ruled by the constant presence of the Holy Spirit in his life; such results in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self control (Gal 5:22-23); take the time to carefully reflect upon those qualities: Are you patient when your world starts falling apart? (i.e., Do you accept it as a God-given reality in your life?). Are you kind to people who are undeserving? (or do you get angry with them). Do you lose control of yourself when significant negatives enter into your life?
Interestingly enough, nearly every Christian looks for a nice little button to push that will cause him to walk in the light, but such does not exist! Keep in mind, God has a purpose for everything that He subjects us to in life, including our failing to measure up to His standards! He is well aware of how we are going to respond to everything He subjects us to — remember, God is infinite, omniscient and omnipotent; there’s absolutely nothing that He doesn’t know (past, present or future). Though we experience great agitation in our soul at times (that’s simply what it means to be a fallen creature), we must prayerfully learn to accept what God is doing in our lives (read Phil 4:4-9; Heb 12:4-11). Said Paul, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in… I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:11-13); those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek. Keep in mind, Paul “learned” to be content, and one does that only when he humbly dia-logues with God every day, and humbly confesses his sins, and humbly acknowledges the Lordship of Christ — prayer has a powerful presence in the life of the believer who truly desires to walk in the Spirit — without it one will simply walk in the flesh, not the Spirit; beloved, if you think you can walk in the light on your own, you are very mistaken; as fallen creatures we don’t have that capacity (read five of David’s psalms – Ps 32, 42, 46, 51, 62)… remember the words of Paul, “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” (Phil 4:13); we cannot do all things on our own, so we must learn to walk with Christ and walk in the Spirit (though we will struggle in doing so because of our fallen nature, when Christ is at the forefront of our lives we will learn to walk uprightly & place our trust in Him — keep in mind, that is what the entire Christian life is all about — overcoming the flesh, and placing our trust in Christ; and that’s a life-long process). Beloved, these last three paragraphs are extremely important for the believer to understand and embrace… if he doesn’t, his faith is always going to be questionable to him, and sin is always going to be perplexing to him. This issue isn’t that difficult for a true committed born-again Christian to understand… he must simply take the time to humbly & prayerfully reflect upon it — if he does, the Holy Spirit will open his eyes to the truth. Beloved, one cannot take God out of the picture, because He is the source of all things in the believer’s life (cf. Ps 100:3; 138:8; Phil 1:6; 1 Th 5:24). I repeatedly emphasize this subject because the vast majority of people in the Christian world do not fully embrace this truth. Let me expand on it once again: Paul recognized that as long as he was in his mortal body he would face the conflict with his sinful inner-core (i.e., his flesh). Thanks be to God however, through Jesus Christ our Lord we are ultimately going to be set free forever from the presence of sin in our lives when we enter the eternal state (cf. Rom 8:23; Phil 3:20-21)… nevertheless, in this earthly life sin is constantly going to have a strong presence in our lives (cf. Rom 7:18). Praise God our eternal destiny is an absolute reality that everyone of us as God’s children are going to experience! Meanwhile we have a war to fight to the praise and glory of God! To close these three paragraphs, let me quote the final words of a study I did on “Sin & Man’s Eternal Purpose;” I would also encourage you to read this study (it’s only about 13 pages long), keeping in mind God used this study to transform my thinking. In order to access this study simply go on-line to my website: www.thetransformedsoul.com — and click on the “Additional Studies Link” in the upper right hand corner of the homepage. Incidentally, the closing words to that particular study are theses:
God has placed us on the grand stage of the universe
to be participants in the cosmic battle between good & evil!
Rejoice in that honor! And fight the good fight of faith!
As you probably noticed two paragraphs back, the final manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s fruit is “self-control,” which gives victory over fleshly desires. As the highly esteemed British pastor & author William Barclay stated in a study he wrote on “Flesh and Spirit” — “Self-control is that great quality which comes to a man when Christ is in his heart; it is self-control that makes him able to live & walk right in this world.” Just because the Holy Spirit resides in us as believers doesn’t mean we will automatically possess the “fruits of the Spirit” — that’s why we are urged to “walk by the Spirit” rather than walk according to “the flesh” (Gal 5:16). As the great American Presbyterian pastor and theologian, James Montgomery Boice, states in his book, “Foundations of the Christian Faith” — “What makes the difference between a fruitful Christian and a non-fruitful one is closeness to Christ and conscious dependence on Him.” Jesus taught this to His disciples the night before He went to the cross when He told them about the vine and the branches: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit… Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (cf. Jn 15:1-5). To “abide in Christ” is to remain in intimate fellowship with Him — the Greek word “meno” translated “abide,” literally means to stay, to abide, to remain, to continue and to dwell; thus it is by abiding in Christ whereby we draw all of our strength, life and nourishment. So when we abide in Christ we remain continually conscious of our union with Him, and this we do by spending time in prayer, studying His Word, obeying His Word, and fellowshipping with other believers. Picture the Christian life this way — you’re walking down a street or driving somewhere with your best friend (in this case, it is Christ), thus it is only natural to frequently talk to Him and enjoy His presence… you don’t simply ignore Him and remain silent. Now if God is a distant reality to you, obviously you won’t walk with Him and chat with Him… thus He will simply be a distant presence in your life (i.e., a stranger who is not that great a friend to you); why’s that? because He is not that significant a reality in your life. Obviously, if we are to be fruitful, we must stay close to God through prayer, and desire to feed on His Word, and continually discuss with Him what we are going through in life… in addition to that we must keep close company with other believers. Finally, there must be pruning in our lives; remember, God saved us as fallen sinful creatures, thus we are not perfect creatures… as such, a lot of stuff needs to be removed from our lives. And that can be difficult & unpleasant at times, because God will sometimes remove things from our lives that we treasure (i.e., things that we really like; not bad things, but things that might be too important to us, or things that God simply wants us to do without — things like a piece of property, a nice automobile, big dollars, good health, a nice job, pleasant family mem-bers, great friends, etc.), and sometimes that involves a lot of suffering (look at all Job went through in his life, in spite of the fact that he was a man of great faith – cf. Job 1:8). Ultimately, the purpose in God’s pruning is to bring forth more fruit. Remember what Jesus said: “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (John 15:8); incidentally, those emboldened words in that verse are emphatic in Greek. Beloved, it should be obvious to every believer in life, when God is a distant reality in our lives (i.e., when He is not the premiere essence of all that goes on in our lives), we will not bear much fruit in life (cf. Gal 5:22-23); so rather then experiencing peace and joy and patience, these things will be minimized in our lives. Though the Christian life is not a piece of cake, neither is it so difficult that it is impossible to achieve. Again, Christ must be the love of your life if you are going to bear fruit in life… if He is a distant reality, you are not going to bear much fruit; it is fleshly thinking and fleshly values that we must reject in life… if we don’t, they will often rule in our soul and keep us from bear-ing much fruit. Now should our flesh be in the driver’s seat of our lives to a fairly high degree, we must go to God and “repent;” i.e., seriously regret that we let our flesh dom-inate our lives and fully acknowledge it to the Lord (cf. Ps 51).
Keep in mind, as you grow older you are going to experience “a lot more pain” in your life then when you were young (which is not a joy-ride) — in so doing, you will naturally ask God to remove it (that’s the norm)… yet God oftentimes will not remove it, and that’s when we generally can become pretty frustrated with life… with God… and with our faith. The typical questions that believers ask God are these — God, why won’t You remove the pain from my life? Why are you ignoring my pain? Why aren’t You being kind to me? Please heal me, Lord… please deliver me from this pain… please be gracious to me; etc. Now with the foregoing in mind, remember the words of God to the prophet Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Is 55:8-9). Keep in mind, even God’s greatest prophets did not fully understand how God operated in this world (and neither do we), but we can learn a little from all they experienced. So how do we apply things? Well, though God does not always think & act the way we want Him to (which is not at all uncommon), naturally, we would all like life to be pleasant and problem free, but that is not the premiere way in which God operates in our lives as fallen creatures; yet regrettably that is completely contrary to what many in the Christian world believe (in particular that’s what Roman Catholics, Liberal Protes-tans, and many Ultra-charismatics believe — the problem is, they fail to incorporate into their theology everything Scripture says; by the way, Ultra-charismatic thinking did not enter into our world until the 19th century when numerous false religions like Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, Christian Science and other Christian Cults came into existence… which ultimately was the result of “the age of enlightenment” that had entered into our world. So each of these movements departed in varying degrees from the traditional orthodox teaching of Christianity; each of them actually blend in some of their own beliefs that do not fully coincide with what Scripture teaches. In so doing, many in the Christian world saw “divine love” as only being a “joyful positive that believers experi-ence, not at all a painful negative;” thus they reject various Christian doctrines; as such, some people actually have a hard time seeing “disciplining & spanking a child as an act of love” (this is not uncommon in some areas of the Christian world; in some regions of Canada it is actually very common; and Canadian Law now outlaws spanking children). Though many professing believers wish God would only employ “joyful positives” in their lives, that is not the only way He operates.
To look at this subject in a little more depth, let’s look at how God dealt with the apostle Paul — remember, Paul was the premiere voice God chose to share “divine revelation” with the Christian world. God actually took Paul up into the third heaven (i.e., paradise) where he heard inexpressible words, which he was not permitted to share with others when he came back into the world; apparently they were not only too difficult to explain to fallen man bit too sacred to be uttered (2 Cor 12:1-4) — “Because of the surpassing great-ness of the revelation, to keep Paul from exalting himself, God let Satan place a painful thorn in his flesh” (2 Cor 12:7). Though Paul doesn’t share exactly what the thorn in his flesh was, it was very distressing to him — three times Paul pleaded with God to remove it from his life; though Paul’s prayer was answered, it was not answered in the way he had hoped. In effect, God said to Paul: “I will not remove the thorn from your life, but I will give you the grace to bear it” (2 Cor 12:8-9). God told Paul, “It is best for you that you be kept in a place of weakness, wherein you will not depend at all upon your own strength; for it is when you are weak that you are truly strong” (2 Cor 12:9-10); the reality is, when we depend upon ourselves and our own skills, we won’t amount to much in life because we don’t have the capacity to do the will of God without completely depending upon Him; that should not be a difficult construct to understand and believe. Keep in mind, as you read the rest of this chapter, this particular principle is one you must contemplate with a humble heart. This construct essentially gives definition as to why God allows His people to suffer so many negatives in life — better than the removal of trials and sufferings from the believer’s life, is the companionship of His Son and the enabling grace God gives to him that is of critical importance. Said the Lord to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you” (remember, “grace” means undeserved favor, and such is emphatic in that verse – 2 Cor 12:9); so it is not as if we must be wonderful creatures if we are going to experience some of God’s grace in life… God knows all of our defilements and knows full well what it means to be a fallen creature, and that we don’t merit any grace whatsoever. Remember, it is by grace alone that we are God’s children, and it is by grace alone that God will do a transforming work in and through our lives. By the way, we don’t have to ask God to make His grace sufficient in our lives; it already is! God is already at work in our lives! He is not “in” one day and “out” the next, with everything depending upon our worthi-ness! Are you listening? To think that we must merit God’s grace does not at all coin-cide with what Scripture teaches — the wonderful truth is our God is a loving God and a very gracious God… and we don’t merit an ounce of His love or His grace. Keep in mind, everything He does in our lives, He does to ultimately transform our lives into the image of Christ… though it won’t happen without Him subjecting us to pain and suffering, it will happen because that is what God has so willed for our lives! Beloved, that is simply the way God works in the lives of His children — He is extremely gracious to His children… to believe or insist that we must be worthy of His grace does not at all coincide with what Scripture teaches; it is simply not possible for fallen man to be worthy of God’s grace… remember, grace literally means “undeserved favor;” thus contrary to what anyone might think, it is nothing we can earn.
As I reflect upon the work God has done in and through my life, to be truthful it amazes me that He actually accomplished anything in and through my life; because it is not as if I’m a wonderful righteous creature who deserves it; the truth is, I am far too conscious of my unworthiness to think that I am actually worthy of some divine work; now if all I saw in me was some “wonderful stuff,” that might cause me to make some proud silly deduc-tions, but that does not define me; the truth is, I am not even close to being a wonderful glorious creature; incidentally, according to Christ Himself “none of us are!” (Lk 18:19). Like all of you, I simply am who I am by the grace of God (1 Cor 15:10); a fallen sinful crea-ture whom God saved by His grace alone (cf. Rom 3:24; Eph 1:3-14; 2:1, 5, 8; 3:8; 4:7). In spite of the fact that I have participated in some of the work God has done in and through my life, He was the one who effectuated that work and gave me the grace to do it — keep in mind, God is the one who gave us our minds and formed our inward parts and made us the people we are — we are not the product of our own doing (cf. Ps 139:13-16; 119:73; Is 44:24). Beloved, the foregoing is exactly how God works in the lives of His children — He calls us to Himself; He dies for us; He makes us brand new creatures; He opens our hearts to divine truth; and He is now doing a transforming work in our lives through the presence of His Spirit who dwells with us. Beloved, are you giving careful consideration to what is being said? If there is anything we must do as believers, it is to understand reality for what it really is. Our justication, sanctification, and glorification are all the work of God in our lives… He is even the one who motivates us to acknowledge our sins and repent of them, and to walk in the light — though we may choose to do the things that He wants us to do, without His presence in our lives, we would never make those choices! Now with the foregoing in mind, it’s important to remember, “God planned the end from the begin-ning;” it has absolutely nothing to do with mere happenstance or the minds and hearts of fallen creatures (cf. Is 46:9-11; Eph 1:4; 2 Th 2:13). For some reason many people do not see God as an integral part of all that is going on in our world; some actually believe that God act-ually removed Himself from the world after He created it (i.e., that God is now a deist), and that everything that now goes on in this world is the work of humanity (not God); though one could argue that to a small degree with all that goes on in the unbelieving world (i.e., the satanic world), that does not define the believing world. Though we are believers (which I’m assuming you are), God is not only the one who redeemed us and justified us, He is the one who sanctified us and is transforming us into the image of Christ (cf. Phil 1:6; 2:13; 1 Pet 5:10; 1 Cor 1:30; 6:11; 2 Th 2:13; Heb 2:11; 10:10). Though many of us have worked hard in life, that doesn’t mean we have merited God’s grace — by the way, He has already given us a billion pounds of grace! i.e., He has forgiven us of all our sins (past, present & future!)… made us His children!… has promised us eternal life!… and is actually making us co-heirs with His Son! The question is, how can these things even be possible since we were children of the devil? The reason we ask how these things can be possible is because as fallen creatures “we cannot fathom the grace of God;” though some believers actually think they merited it in some way, the truth is we had absolutely nothing to do with it! Again, if you don’t let God’s self-revelation control your thinking, you’ll believe untruth. Keep in mind, for one to think that he had merited God’s grace to some degree, is to actually minimize God’s grace and see one’s self as being a far greater creature than he really is; such completely distorts reality. Incidentally, the work I have done over the years has not only been very challenging to me at times, it has often been very difficult and distressing to me (there are some days when I have an extremely dif- ficult time sleeping, and that’s a very disconcerting thing for me). Though I have never merited God’s grace in life, God has given me the grace to do the work He has called me to do; again, it was never given to me because I somehow merited it; it was given to me because that was God’s plan for my life, which He determined in eternity past (cf. Ps 139: 13-16; Ecc 11:5; Is 46:9-11). For any of us to say that at some point we merited God’s grace, is to actually make our juvenile work a coequivalent of God’s divine work (and that’s a road you do not want to travel down); what’s important is that you humbly acknowledge God for who He truly is. By the way, one could apply such thinking with the work of the apostle Paul; though he wrote numerous New Testament books, the truth is, they are not called “Paul’s Word,” they are “God’s Word;” Scripture tells us that GOD is the one who ultimately inspired all of the writings of Scripture (by the way, the word “inspired” literally means “God breathed;” i.e., all of Scripture is the work of GOD, not man [2 Tim 3:16] – “No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoken from GOD” [2 Pet 1:21]; by the way, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek). So whatever work God may direct us to do in life, whatever that work is, it essentially is a work that was motivated by God — incidentally, that doesn’t mean our work as God’s children will be a work of perfection (because the truth is, we are still fallen creatures), nevertheless God may still be highly pleased with our work (keep in mind, in the end God is going to reward us accordingly). Remember, the only perfect work that any of us actually have access to is “God’s self-revelation to man” (i.e., Scrip-ture), not some work by us or another fallen creature. The truth is, for one to compare his own work with God’s divine work, would be like comparing a little penny with a billion dollars (again, that is not a road you want to go down). I have stated this several times, because I have tried to shed light on a subject that is a very difficult one for many believers to fully understand and embrace. Let me say it one more time — if you do not humble yourself before the Lord, you will not embrace divine truth as it is clearly stated in Scripture. Hopefully, the foregoing information was helpful to you.
Now, though God “rewards” His children for the work He calls them to, that does not mean we are earning His grace, or that our work in any way is a coequivalent of God’s work on our behalf. Remember, God saved us by grace alone (it had absolutely nothing to do with our meriting it), and He placed His Holy Spirit in our lives to move us in a godly direction and ultimately transform us into the image of Christ; so everything we may be doing as His children is essentially being controlled by God — keep in mind, we are not yet glorious righteous creatures; that won’t occur until we enter into the eternal state. Meanwhile, God is constantly at work in our hearts and minds, and warring against our sinful inner-core (i.e., our flesh – cf. Gal 5:17). Now in spite of the fact that we often cave into our flesh & stumble, God never leaves us or forsakes us (Heb 13:5); He just keeps on fighting against our flesh; as Paul said, “God will ultimately complete the good work He began in us” (cf. Phil 1:6; 1 Pet 5:10). Remember, God saved us as fallen sinful crea-tures, and none of us merited an ounce of the grace He has given us. Now in spite of the fact that none of us merit God’s grace, the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives moving us in a godly direction. To help see yourself as you truly are, think of yourself as a little child who is always stumbling in life and getting into trouble… thus your parents may otten spank you & disciplines you, but one thing they don’t do is this — they NEVER abandon you or throw you out of their house! Essentially, that is simply how God operates in our lives; He just keeps on disciplining us and scourging us and talking to our hearts (read Heb 12:4-11)… and it is all for our GOOD — if we were glorious creatures, that would be one thing, but we are not glorious creatures! As believers, we must simply see ourselves for who we truly are! Incidentally, to do so is to have a humble heart, and it is the humble heart that God loves! Remember, God gives grace (i.e., undeserved favor) to the humble (cf. Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5). Keep in mind, at the end of the age “we will each reap what we have sowed in life” (Gal 6:7-9), and it is the humble who will sow the most. As Paul said, “He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly; he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compul-sion; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:6-7) — essentially, the foregoing is the law of the harvest that is referred to numerous times in Scripture (cf. Prov 11:24-25; 19:17; Lk 6:38; Gal 6:7); basically the message is this: every believer should give as he purposes in his heart; remember, God has given all of His children “new hearts,” and it is a humble heart that should strongly influence the believer’s life — it is not a matter of law, it is a matter of loving Christ and serving Him. Keep in mind, God gives things to His humble children that they might deal generously with others; in so doing, His humble children do not suffer significant want in life. Several times Scripture tells us that there will come a day when “God will recompense people according to their deeds;” that’s a very popular theme in Scripture (cf. Jer 25:14; 51:56; 1 Cor 3:14-15). Said Paul, “As believers we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (cf. 2 Cor 5:10; Mt 16:27; Rom 2:6; 14:10; Eph 6:8). Though God is going to judge everyone of us at the end of the age (be us believers or unbelievers), as believers we will ultimately “reap exactly what we sowed in life” (cf. Mt 16:27; Gal 6:6-10; Ps 62:12); not eternal punishment (that’s reserved for unbelievers). Remember, everything we experience in this life as believers is not the result of all we have sowed in this life (don’t draw that conclusion); it is the eternal life that God is going to assign to us when we enter into heaven that should significantly impact the life we live here on earth; keep in mind, the life we now live will determine the life God is going to assign to us in the eternal state (i.e., we will reap what we have sown). Again, we are going to be rewarded accordingly in the life to come (cf. 1 Cor 3:8; 4:5; Rev 22:12). Beloved, if God’s eternal judgment isn’t that significant to you, neither is your love for Christ.
Again, though God has given each of us the “grace” to be the people He designed us to be, it’s important to remember that none of us have merited His grace (that has all been the result of His plan in eternity past); God has simply asked us as His children to die to our flesh, to walk in the light, and live to the praise of His glory — though no believer has fully done that, some believers have done so far better than other believers. With the foregoing in mind, it’s important to remember, we have not all been equally gifted in life, or have lived in the same era or the same country, or have faced the same challenges in life, or have experienced the same call of God in life. Keep in mind, some people die young in life… some people are grossly abused in life… some people aren’t very good looking… some people are given a gold-spoon in life, many are not… some of us were raised in Christian homes & attended Christian churches, and placed our faith in Christ when we were children, but that does not define the majority of believers… the differ-ences go on and on; yet God fully understands us (that is the way He designed us, and that is the life He has so willed for us). Obviously, we don’t all live the same life, or enjoy all of the same benefits in life; again, that is simply the way God has chosen to act, and He knows full-well all what we are all experiencing in life… and at the end of the age, He is going to judge everyone accordingly; and in so doing He will not make one mistake! His judging will be perfect! To help give context to this issue, take the time to read the following passages (Mt 25:14-30; Lk 19:12-27) — some people were blessed with several talents, others were not; though most fallen creatures will be inclined to argue against what God has so willed… it is man’s remedial mind that causes him to argue against God… if all things are not “equal” to self-centered fallen creatures, they will not embrace such thinking… again, read those two passages. The key for us as believers, is that that we do our best to walk in the light, and live to the praise of God’s glory in life, and accept everything God has done in our lives (whether we fully under-stand it or not)… and be a person who “loves others and does his best to serve others” (cf. Mt 22:36-40; Jn 13:34-35). Remember, none of the foregoing was merited by any of us; though some of us may complain because we seemingly weren’t blessed with a lot of positives, that kind of thinking we need to humbly reject… we simply need to live to the praise of God’s glory, regardless of what it is He has placed on our plate. Beloved, if you are experiencing a lot of negatives and difficulties in life, due your best to rejoice in them to the praise of God’s glory. Why God designed each of us the way He designed us, none of us know; but that’s not the important thing in life… maximizing the use of our skill-set, and serving God’s people, and living to the praise of God’s glory is what is important in life! Said Solomon, “When all has been heard, fear God and keep His commandments, because God will bring every act to judgment” (cf. Ecc 12:13-14).
With the foregoing in mind, remember God is the one who gave us our minds and our physical abilities… and He did so for a reason, and that reason essentially is to live life to the praise of His glory as He has so designed it (which is different for each one of us). Incidentally, I find it interesting that “rich people” in our world are not nearly as happy and content as “poor people” are… thus people who are not rich need to actually rejoice in all God has blessed them with, because having a lot of money isn’t nearly as wonderful as most people think (the truth is, it is frequently far more problematic then it is benefi-cial). Imagine if you will being a billionaire; how would you live your life? what would you do with all that money? how would you spend it? what would you do with every-thing you buy? how big a house would you buy? where would you live? why? how would you dress? where would you work? (why & why not?) how would your friends treat you? how would you treat them? Are you getting the picture? Things radically change when “big bucks” play an integral part in our lives. It is no wonder God does not give all of His children a lot of money, because it is far more problematic than it is helpful. I find it interesting, though most of God’s people are financially healthy, very few of them are financially wealthy. God simply asks His children to be reasonably generous in helping others with what God has given them. The truth is, when “riches” aren’t a big thing to us as believers, our lives will be far more fruitful and pleasant. Remember the words of Paul to Timothy: “The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil” (1 Tim 6:9-10; also cf. 1 Tim 3:3; Ps 62:10). One of man’s premiere problems in life is that he basically lives to make himself wealthy, and lives to the praise of his own glory; i.e., he lives a very self-centered life, and sees everything he does in life as the product of his own doing; as if God is not the premiere author of his life. Thus man sees himself as a self-made creature who is the product of his own doing… obviously such people do not see God for who He truly is in their life; thus they essentially live to the praise of their own glory (and that’s a very disconcerting road for God’s people to travel on). I guess the question would be this: “Is that person truly a believer?” When a person does not humbly embracing the Lordship of Christ, in all probability He is not a true believer; remember, there has to be evidence in a person’s heart that God is working in his soul if he is a true believer; the truth is, God affirms His presence to those with a humble heart. Now though God plays an important role in our lives as believers, there are actually times when we may walk in the dark for a short period of time (not all the time). The problem with many believers is that they simply do not see God as the ulti-mate basis and foundation of all that goes on in their lives… thus God has a very reme-dial presence in their lives. The main problem for many believers is that they simply don’t see God as the dynamic reality who controls all that goes on in their lives — the reason many believers do not see God for who He is in their lives is because they are essentially living a self-centered life… as such their proud hearts rule in their lives. Now whether in fact they are true believers (only God knows that) — if they fail to humble themselves before the Lord, they will not only have a very remedial faith, nei- ther will they have assurance of faith, and Christ will not be of primary importance to them. Beloved, if God is not seen as an integral part of everything that goes on in our lives, then we are letting fleshly thinking rule within us (remember, our flesh is in com- plete opposition to the Holy Spirit; so if we cave in to our flesh, “sin” will result and we essentially will end up walking in the dark. Keep in mind, being mindful of God’s divine presence in our hearts and minds is absolutely critical for us as believers… if God only has a religious presence in our lives (which defined the ancient Jewish world), and we embrace certain actions like sacraments, the Eucharist, Mass & the Lord’s Supper, some- how thinking that they are pleasing to the Lord, then God is not the God of their lives (because they are insisting on making their response to one of God’s laws as that which is pleasing to Him; but that does not at all correspond with what Scripture teaches. Keep in mind, being a Christian is not simply a matter of going to church and participating in some sacrament that merits God’s approval; because nothing like that exists in the Chris-tian world; though it does in Roman Catholic world, it doesn’t exist in the believing Protestant world.
Remember Paul’s words to the Romans, “We are not to live according to the flesh” (i.e., according to our own fallen human thinking – cf. Rom 8:12-13; 14:7-8); “To live is Christ, and to die is gain,” so Christ must be our life as we live in this world (Phil 1:21). Now regard-less of everything we do for Christ in this life, we must consciously see God as the one who made us and formed our inward parts (cf. Ps 139:13ff), and that He desires that we “do our work heartily as unto the Lord, rather than men… knowing that from the Lord we will receive the reward of the inheritance; remember, it is the Lord Christ whom we serve” (cf. Col 3:23-24; Eph 6:6-7); beloved, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek. Keep in mind, as believers we are to “live a life of faith,” not a life that is grounded in human feelings and human values; i.e., “we are to walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). Remember, the ancient Jewish world always looked for “signs” in life (1 Cor 1:22); said Jesus to them, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe” (cf. Jn 4:48; 6:2); yet in spite of the fact that Jesus performed amazing signs, they still didn’t believe — so signs are not the foundation upon which one should build his faith. To the regret of many in the charismatic, that is precisely what they do — sings, wonders and miracles are extremely important to them and their faith; in spite of the fact that their claims are not at all genuine; i.e., the miracles they claim do not at all occur in the way in which they did when Christ and His disciples ruled in the Christian world some 2,000 years ago. If the issue of “Signs, Wonders and Miracles” is one that is a little confusing to you, take the time and read a study I did on it under that title — you can access it on my website: www.thetransformedsoul.com — simply click on the “Additional Studies Link” at the top of the Homepage. The problem with many Christians is that “they want to feel things and see things,” like the ancient Jewish world did — to them, faith must be grounded in physical reality, but that does not at all define biblical truth. Stated Paul, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (cf. 2 Cor 5:7); incidentally that word “faith” is emphatic in Greek, so don’t change the discourse. Just because the Jewish world & many people in the charismatic world insist on experiencing visual reality, doesn’t make it legitimate. By the way, once Jesus & His disciples passed away, so did signs, wonders & miracles (there is significant historical evidence to support that). Regarding some of the miracles that took place prior to the death of Christ’s disciples, read the following verses (cf. Acts 2: 43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 7:36; 8:6, 13; 15:12). Remember, “faith means believing God & His Word” — “faith comes by hearing the word of Christ” (cf. Rom 10:17)… “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (cf. Heb 11:1); “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (cf. Heb 11:6). There are numerous passages in Scripture that address this issue called “faith,” you may want to reflect upon them (cf. Rom 1:17; 4:5; 10: 17; Gal 2:2; 5:6; 1 Tim 6:12; 2 Tim 3:15; Heb 11:1; 12:2; Jam 1:3; 1 Pet 1:21). Obviously without divine knowledge, one cannot live by faith… so it is important that one humbly study God’s word and embrace it. Keep in mind, to believe means to place one’s trust in what God’s Word says; remember, Scripture is “God’s self-revelation to mankind” — the question is, are you going to treat it as such and believe what God’s Word says, or are you going to let your fallen thinking rule in your mind? Beloved, there are only “two ways” to live life; either you are going to live by faith in Christ, or you are going to live according to your own fallen thinking. Now if you don’t spend time humbly studying God’s Word, it is not going to govern your life… remember, it is only when we humbly study God’s Word that He opens our hearts & minds to the truth; it is not the result of human thinking as some people apparently assume; God is the one who convicts and assures us of truth; again, that is not the residual affect of some physical sign or human reason. Lord willing, what has been stated is not too perplexing for you to embrace; obviously if Christ is not the premiere focus of your life, He will not rule in your heart and mind, and neither will He be the One that you live for in life. My prayer for each of you is that “genuine faith” characterizes your lives.
Because I’m not fully aware of the “work” that each of you do as one of God’s children, I’m not sure exactly how you might apply everything that has been stated. For instance, over the past fifteen years I have written nearly one-hundred theological studies that I have placed on my website (which gets between 1500 and 1700 hits a day); so essentially this is what now continually occupies my time. Though this particular work isn’t some-thing that is completely uncommon in the Christian world, it is important for you to know that I constantly speak to God and seek His wisdom as I study and write (why is that? be-cause fleshly thinking can easily influence one’s thinking, and that has to be completely rejected). Incidentally, when I don’t humble myself before the Lord, my thinking ulti-mately becomes very dark to me, and I have a difficult time fully addressing the issues that are on my plate — obviously God insists that I spend significant time humbly reach-ing out to Him and contemplating divine truth; being that divine truth isn’t easy to fully understand, it requires a lot of study, a lot of reflection, and a humble heart. So over and over again, I am constantly asking God for the “grace” to understand something and to properly express it in my writings; that essentially defines pretty much everything that is contained in this study… though that may sound a little much to some of you, keep in mind humility of thought is absolutely essential when contemplating the essence of what Scripture really teaches — you can’t wiggle around with a bunch of humanistic thinking (which regrettably is common for many believers). It is also important to know that asking God for the grace to fully understand something, doesn’t mean that it happens in the blink of an eye — if you have wrestled with some theological truth, you know that that is true. So with the foregoing in mind, I often spend several hours working on a particular subject (sometimes 10, 20, 30 hours), because I’m not able to fully grasp the fullness of it; yet God ultimately gives me the grace to understand what His Word says, and the grace to articulate it. Basically I have to read and review most of what I write 20-25 times before completing the work; if theological writing was a simple little walk in the park, that would be one thing; but it is not at all that simple; the truth is, it is often very challenging and causes me to reword things over & over again (that is simply how difficult it is to write what God places on your heart & give definition to the issues you end up studying) — now if this wasn’t God’s call for my life, it’s hard to know what I would choose to do in life; of all the things that I seem to like in this world (and I don’t like a whole lot) my going out into the country-side and enjoying the created order is probably the most enticing thing to me — I find it much nicer then this ugly reckless diabolical world in which we live). However, when God makes His work clear to our hearts and minds, we naturally embrace His will for our lives. Remember, when God places something in the hearts of His people, they submit to Him and the work He calls them to; incidentally, God doesn’t place something in a person’s heart knowing that he won’t submit to Him (God doesn’t play games with people – read Mt 7:6 and 13:10-13); so if you are humbly committed to being one of God’s servants, He will direct your life, and open the door for the work He would have you do. Though there are times when God is really encouraging my heart in the moment, there are times when He lets Satan cause great consternation in my soul (obviously, Satan has the capacity to frustrate us, even though we are God’s children; that’s not unusual). Though most highly-committed Christian writers probably wrestle through things like I do, that may not be the case for all of them; what is critically important is that they have humbled themselves significantly while seeking God’s grace and wisdom as they study the subjects that they are writing about.
Remember, that wonderful word “grace” literally means “undeserved favor;” so if you’re asking God for the grace to know or do something, you must be mindful of the fact that you don’t merit it (that doesn’t mean God won’t give it to you, but you don’t merit it — do you understand that?). Keep in mind, some people actually deduce that because they are willing to serve God, they actually merit God’s grace; but that completely distorts reality. The truth is, God doesn’t tolerate a proud heart; He only gives grace to those who humble themselves before Him; beloved, that’s the pathway to grace, without it we wont experience it (cf. Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5). Again, it is not as if any of us are deserving of God’s grace (because none of us are), it is simply a matter of humbly approaching God and ack-nowledging our need of His grace, knowing full-well that we are not at all worthy of it… again, it’s a matter of seeing ourselves for who we really are (hopefully this makes sense to you; give very serious contemplation to it if is doesn’t, and do so with great humility). Now if there is one thing I have learned down through the ages, it is that I am not at all worthy of God’s grace; in short, because I’m not at all a glorious righteous creature (sin often has a very prominent presence in my life; be it my self-life, anger, anxiety, frustra- tion, hatred & discouragement). For me personally, my prayer has always been that God will wash my heart clean and give me the grace to understand and express divine reality as it needs to be stated to the praise of His glory… that the hearts of other people might actually be enlightened with regard to what I write. Once a person really understands reality as it needs to be understood, he will then see God for who He really is, and see himself for who he really is; incidentally, as previously mentioned, the foundation of such thinking is “humility” (i.e., seeing reality for what it really is, “not thinking more highly of one’s self than he ought” (Rom 12:3); remember, “God only gives grace to the humble” (cf. Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5).
Beloved, whatever we do in life as a believer, we need to fully acknowledge God’s pre-sence in our life and seek His will above our own will (cf. 1 Pet 4:2; Rom 12:2; Eph 6:6; Heb 10:36; 13:20-21). For me personally in the work that I do, as previously stated I constantly ask God for the grace to understand divine truth, and the grace to fully express it and expand upon what He has placed in my heart and mind — keep in mind, God places things in my heart (they are not simply the product of my own doing), as such, I have to study those things in great depth; though some things aren’t too difficult to study, other things are difficult. Now because Satan frequently seems to be at the door of my heart, I frequently cry out to God that He would graciously remove Satan from my heart and mind, and give me the grace to know exactly what it is that I need to address — obviously if Satan’s demonic presence didn’t exist, things would frequently be far easier then they are… but since I have an extreme hatred for Satan and this diabolical world, I seem to be constantly wag-ing war against him and his cohorts. By the way, I didn’t share this with you that you might pity me (that is the last thing I would want from any of you) — if you know me at all, you know that does not at all define me; the truth is, that wouldn’t change a thing in my life… remember, life is not the product of my own doing; God is on the throne and is accomplishing all of His purposes in my life. Though Satan may ask God for permis-sion to subject His children to some difficult circumstances in life (just like he did with Job, Paul & others), He only permits things He can use it to grow our faith (though we may not see it that way, that’s how God works in our lives — remember, “God uses the difficulties of life to strengthen our faith” (cf. 2 Cor 12:7-10; Jam 1:2-4; 1 Pet 5:10). The truth is, life is precisely what God intended it to be; though some of it can be very difficult, some of it is not difficult. I guess the question I would ask is this: “Why would one think that Satan is not a significant element in the lives of God’s children?” Read the following passages (cf. Eph 6:11ff; 1 Pet 5:6-9). Like each of you, I naturally wish everything in life was grand and glorious, but such is not the case… as has been stated several times, God is on the throne in our lives, and much of what we experience in life can be very difficult. I shared the foregoing with you, to let you know that our relationship with Christ isn’t always easy and simple — as Jesus said to His disciples the night before He went to the cross: “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world” (cf. Jn 16:33; Acts 14:22); the wonderful truth of that verse is the fact that God has overcome the world and all of His enemies; it is now only a matter of time until He slams the door on the unbelieving world! Remember “God planned the end from the beginning!” (Is 46: 9-11)… and “if God is for us, who can possibly be against us?” (Rom 8: 31). Though God never intended our journey on earth as believers to be an easy one, it is going to have an extremely glorious ending! (1 Pet 5:10).
Though human thinking does not coincide with divine truth, God has not left us out in the dark regarding it; He simply asks us to humble ourselves before Him, in so doing He then gives us the grace to know divine truth and the grace to believe divine truth. That is pre-cisely how God reveals divine truth to us; so understanding divine truth is not the product of human reason. It is also important to remember that divine truth ultimately is infinite, not finite; therefore it far exceeds mere human thinking; thus as finite creatures we will never fully understand divine truth (not even the angels in heaven fully understands it; only God fully understands it). Remember what the Lord said to the prophet Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways highter than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Ic 55:8-9). Likewise King Solomon (whom God made the wisest man whoever lived or whoever will live; 1 Kg 3:12) said: “I set my mind to know wisdom, but I realized this is striving after wind, because in much wisdom there is much grief” (cf. Ecc 1:13, 17, 18; 1213) — as the Old Testament commentator Ronald Allen says, “It is well known that the very process of learning is an expansion of the awareness of our ignor-ance; for mortals, an increase of wisdom may only increases pain” (Ecc 12:12); obviously, finite man is a very limited creature who doesn’t have the capacity to understand much wisdom, yet he likes to think that he is smart when he learns something — that’s why a tenth grader is referred to as a “sophomore,” which literally means “wise fool” — to the chagrin of many parents, their teenage children often think they are smarter than their parents (which isn’t at all unusual… incidentally, that is precisely what is transpiring here in America today — many young people actually think they are smarter than older people. What they fail to understand is that their arrogance has completely thrown them into the dark; such simply shows you how absolutely stupid fallen creatures can be. As the apostle Paul said, “In the last days difficult times will come… men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, haters of good, treacherous, reck-less, and conceited” (cf. 2 Tim 3:1-4). How can one not think that we are now in “the last days”? Keep in mind, this may be the stupidest generation that has ever existed in our world… it is only a matter of time until God drops the ax on it (and that doesn’t appear to be very far off). It is absolutely shocking to those of us who have a little knowledge about the end of time for the human race, because we did not anticipate that “the end” was as close to happening as it is. The question one could ask the diabolical youngsters who are now trying to rule in our world is this: “Do you actually think you will be less wise 40-50 years from now then you are today, or do you think you’ll be sider? If you think you’ll be wiser, then why do you make silly assumptions and think older gener-ations are less wise then you are? Just because you’ve got a few muscles and a loud mouth, doesn’t mean you are men and women of wisdom… yet you do everything you can to attack those who are older and far wiser than you… here you are making rash decisions regarding things who have very little knowledge of; yet you embrace such nonsense.” Beloved, remember, you can’t talk to idiots who are sold-out to the devil; they wouldn’t listen to you in a billion years! The truth is, it is only when finite fallen man is pushed into the fullness of wisdom (as Solomon was) that he then knows that he has a very small mind. Now since we all didn’t travel down the same road in life, we all don’t give equal emphasis to the same things in life; in so doing, some people live a far more simple life, and simply embrace the foundations of the faith, and strive to live life to the praise of God’s glory. Though divine truth is critical for us to believe, the depth of divine truth is where the believing world often differs. What is important for the be-liever to know is that God has given us “His Word” to communicate divine truth to our hearts and minds; so to minimize its importance in one’s life does not at all correspond with what Scripture teaches — as believers we are not to excuse ourselves from studying God’s Word (read the following verses: Eph 4:11-16; Heb 5:12-14; 1 Pet 2:2; 2 Pet 3:18); whether in fact one studies God’s Word in great depth is not the issue; the issue is that as believer we must give significant emphasis to divine truth, and not treat it lightly. Though few people have the ability to go two or three feet deep when studying God’s Word… nearly all Christians have the ability to go a half a foot deep when studying it — so what is im-portant for the believer is that he prayerfully studies God’s Word with great humility, and embrace it as God so wills (that must be a big priority in the believer’s life). Now keep in mind, it is not as if divine truth simply consists of a dozen little issues… the truth is, there are probably a hundred issues in Scripture, and some of them possess a level of depth that none of us can fully understand; nevertheless, we are not to reject things we don’t fully understand… we are to believe what God’s Word says — for instance, just because one can’t fathom the sovereignty of God, His grace and love and holiness, and the believer’s sinful inner-core (i.e., his flesh), and the fullness of God’s work in his life, does not mean one can change the discourse and reject what Scripture teaches (to the shame of many in the Christian world, that is not at all uncommon; thus many people do not have a genuine faith; again, it is ultimately their lack of humility that is the problem).
It is also important to remember that it is only when we are totally dependent upon the Lord, and not ourselves, that God does greatest work in & through our lives. Being con-sciously dependent upon God is essential… if God is not an active force in your heart and mind, you’ll be making yourself the premiere source of all you do in life. In order for you to make God the cornerstone of your life, you must humbly seek God’s will and grace in the moment, or you will simply be letting your own humanistic thinking rule in the moment — obviously if you seek God’s will in the moment, you will be pouring out your heart to Him and embracing His will (whatever that may be). With that in mind, take a moment and reflect upon all that had transpired with the apostle Paul — God took him into the third heaven; i.e., the dwelling place of Christ & the saints, that Jesus called paradise (cf. Lk 23:43; Rev 2:7), and everything he saw and heard was completely inexpressi-ble… God had forbidden Paul to repeat what he had seen and heard… and to keep him humble, God let Satan place a thorn in his flesh; now in spite of the fact that Paul had pleaded with God three times to remove the pain from his life, God refused to remove it from him to keep him from exalting himself (obviously Paul had seen some incredibly glorious stuff). So Jesus to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9); incidentally, the emboldened words in that verse are emphatic in Greek. Obviously when man relies upon himself in life, and not God, he will accom-plish very little in life, because God’s grace and strength far exceeds man’s strength… so perhaps what God did in Paul’s life was expose him to this incredible thing called paradise, and then asked him to fully lean on Him and not himself (the stunning reality of paradise must have completely overwhelmed Paul; obviously as fallen creatures the heavenly realm far transcends the minds of men). So here was the apostle Paul (i.e., the premiere source through which God was communicating His own self-revelation to the human race), completely stunned at what he had seen in paradise, how completely hum-ble before the Lord, so that God would be able to fully accomplish all He intended to do through Paul. Though that construct might be difficult to fully understand, what is of critical importance is that man not see himself as being greater than he is and not need-ing to fully depend upon God… the truth is, we are not glorious creatures who walk on water… only God does that, and we must defer to Him. Though that may be a difficult construct for us to fully embrace, embrace it we must. The reality is, God extends grace to the humble to accomplish His great works in and through their lives. As the author of the book of Hebrews said, “Since God fully sympathizes with our weaknesses, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:15- 16); by the way, that word “grace” is emphatic in Greek. Keep in mind, by definition we don’t merit grace, yet God gives it to us when we humble ourselves before Him! As the apostle Paul said, “God is able to make all grace abound to us” (2 Cor 9:8); again, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek. Though none of us are admittedly deserving of God’s grace, God does gives grace to us when we humble ourselves before Him — be it grace to sleep… grace to think… grace to under-stand… grace to commune with God… grace to serve others… grace to do what is right… and the grace to be forgiven and the grace to forgive others. Again, though we are not worthy of God’s grace, He graciously gives us the grace we frequently need in life. Now if you are confident in your own spirituality, strength and wisdom (as many pastors are), rather than experiencing God’s grace, your innate pride will essentially be a problematic reality in your life. Though I’ve stated it often, perhaps I need to state it again: God only gives grace to the humble (Jam 4:6); i.e., to those who see themselves for who they really are (sinful fallen creatures who have placed their trust in Christ alone); if you need to contemplate that subject in order to fully embrace it, then by all means do so all the way to the end. Keep in mind, God has ways of keeping all of us as His children humble; so don’t change the discourse. Remember, the Lord permitted Satan to strongly afflict two of God’s greatest servants down through the ages (both Job and Paul), and God has used their lives to speak to the entire believing world! When God permits suffering to come into our lives, many believers become bitter and blame God for robbing them of their joy and pleasure; yet over time, most believers will humbly wrestle through the negatives, and bow at God’s feet. So instead of grumbling & complaining about the negatives in your life, it is important that you see them as having a positive effect upon your life (spiritually speaking). Remember, what is absolutely essential for us as believers, is completely deferring to God and His will for our lives — incidentally, no one is saying that this is an easy matter (it wasn’t for Job, Paul or anyone else), and neither is it some-thing impossible for you to deal with; keep in mind, God is constantly moving each one of us as His children in a “godly direction;” so regardless of how things may appear to you in your life right now, you must humble yourself before the Lord and acknowledge Him as the Lord & Master of your life. With the foregoing in mind, take a moment and reflect upon the words of King David: “Thou didst form my inward parts… I give thanks to Thee; my soul knows it very well…. In Thy book were written all of the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (Ps 139:13-16); obviously, there is nothing God doesn’t know about us, and He is constantly at work in us transforming us into the image of Christ; though we won’t fully be transformed until the end of the age, God is at work in us accomplishing all of His good pleasures (cf. Phil 1:6; 2:13; 2 Cor 4:16-17; 1 Pet 5:10). With the foregoing in mind, spend time in prayer and God’s Word and wrestle through all He has placed in your life (remember, everything God has done in your life, He has done for a reason). Now the problem many believers have when they read such things as these, is that they actually argue against it, and at times actually get angry. Beloved, either you take the time to humbly study Scriptural doctrines in depth, or a self-life will often rule in your heart… and since a self-life is not grounded in humility, it does not please God.
Remember, as human beings we are all made of the same stuff, and God knows full-well our deformities and our weaknesses; so don’t look at other believers as being vastly better than you or far worse than you… we are all made of the same stuff, and God is at work in all of our lives as His children moving us in a godly direction. As the psalmist David said, “God will accomplish what concerns me” (cf. Ps 138:8; 57:2; 1 Th 5:24). Incidentally, my life has been full of problems now for about fifteen years; during this time much of what I have experienced has not at all been pleasant… as such, God has laid it upon my heart to study this issue thoroughly for a number of years, and it was only then that I began to see and appreciate all that God is doing in my life (incidentally, my flesh doesn’t like it at all) — keep in mind, God is the one who made me the person I am; I am not a self-made creature. As King David said, “God is the one who formed my inward parts and made me the person He wanted me to be… and in His book were written all the days that were ordained for me” (cf. Ps 139:13-16; also 119:73; Is 44:24). So the truth is, we are not self-made creatures. Keep in mind, my understanding of divine reality isn’t something that hap-pened overnight… though there were moments of great peace in my life, there were also moments of great turmoil. Many of God’s prophets in the ancient Jewish world actually reached the point in life when they wished they had never been born (obviously, I’m no different then they were), yet they all ultimately acquiesced and accepted the fullness of the work God was doing in their lives. Remember, the night before Jesus went to the cross, “He became very distressed and troubled” in the Garden of Gethsemane… “He became deeply grieved to the point of death… and He asked His Father to “remove this cup from Him;” nevertheless He ultimately said, “Let not My will, but Thy will be done” (Mk 14:32-36; Mt 26:39); by the way, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek. Obviously that is not an easy construct for us to fully understand, because Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God; yet that is what occurred in His life here on earth. Keep in mind, though Jesus had taken on the form of a man, He did not possess sinful flesh; yet He still felt in-credible pain and suffering. Remember the words of the Lord to Paul, “You must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). Said Paul to the Romans, “The Spirit Himself bears wit-ness with our spirit that we are children of God… if indeed we suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him… the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:16-18). Likewise Paul said to the Philippians: “It has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil 1:29); by the way, the word “granted” is “grace” in Greek, so suffering is a gift of grace, just as believing is; thus it is not a super-negative. Said the apostle Peter, “Since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same pur-pose” (cf. 1 Pet 4:1; also 4:13; 2 Cor 1:5-7; 1 Pet 5:10). Though all of us can argue our heads off regarding this thing called suffering, there is no argument that will change the discourse; yet that is precisely what many people do in the Christian world — they simply refuse to align their human thinking with divine truth, thus their faith is a very remedial faith (if indeed it is genuine at all). By the way, more than half of the Christian world has refused to accept and believe in things like divine suffering, eternal hell, and other negatives (in particular Roman Catholics, Liberal Protestants, and some Charismatics). Now, though the foregoing may be a difficult construct for some of you to accept, you may need to wrestle through it over and over again until God gives you a level of peace with regard to how He is working in your life. Remember, I wasn’t raised any different than most of you were… I was never taught the essence of pain, suffering and negatives in the Chris-tian life… incidentally, I was not even taught the full significance of these things in Sem-inary; the reality is, most of my seminary professors had simply been raised like most of us elders were, “in a joy-filled church that essentially taught a joy-filled theology.” Re-member, it is only when you experience strong negatives in life (i.e., it is only when you are subjected to them) that you finally come to understand them. Keep in mind, divine truth has a depth to it, it is not just a bunch of little simplistic issues…it’s also important to remember, God is the one who subjects us to all we experience in life (it is not mere happenstance).
GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSE FOR HUMANITY
Remember, “SIN” first occurred in heaven by Satan and all of his cohorts in antiquity past, and that is the reason for man’s existence, and the reason why God essentially does everything He does in our world — “SIN” is the reason why God operates the way He does in our world; were it not for sin in the heavenly realm in the ancient past, human beings would not exist! When God created man and placed him in the Garden of Eden, it is important to remember He also placed Satan in the Garden as well, and Satan ended up "causing finite man to fall” — it is not as if God was ignorant of all that was going to tran-spire in the new world (as some people foolishly think; the problem for many people even in the Christian world is that they minimize GOD and actually make Him out to be a crea-ture who does not possess omniscience, omnipotence or eternality. Remember, there is absolutely nothing that God doesn’t know — He knows the past, the present & the future. The reality is God knew full-well all that was going to happen in our world long before it ever came to pass — as Scripture says, “God declared the end from the beginning; thus He accomplishes all His good pleasure; as God has planned things, so they exist” (cf. Is 46:10-11)… the truth is, “God works all things after the counsel of His will” (cf. Eph 1:11). Thus there is absolutely nothing that God does not know — though we as temporal finite creatures don’t know anything that is of future origin, God knows everything, be it past, present or future); the reality is, God has prophesied numerous things through His prophets (i.e., He has foretold the future through His prophets). Remember, the reason God knows all things is because He is the eternal, omniscient, omnipotent One who created all things; so His infinite nature completely transcends the entire created order. Again, God made EVERYTHING that exists… NOTHING exists that He did not make! Not even the glorious angels or anything that exists in the heavenly realm (be it creatures, structures, the entire invisible realm, or any other reality). On the next page you’ll notice I made a “BOX” that contains everything that was ever created; i.e., space, mass or time — those three terms are frequently used by the world’s greatest philosophers to describe the entire created order. Keep in mind, anything that consists of space, mass & time was created… though God had obviously brought some things into existence prior to creating the world (apparently, most of it was in the angelic realm), yet at some point in the past nothing existed but the eternal, infinite, omniscient, omnipotent GOD. That shouldn’t be a difficult construct to embrace, because only God is ETERNAL! In order to shed light on the eternality of God, it is important to differentiate between GOD and the CREATED ORDER; i.e., properly see everything for what it really is — that is, see God as the only eternal reality, and see everything else as a temporal reality (only God is eternal & tran-scends that which is temporal). Now regarding everything that was created, I have placed all such things in the following “BOX” (which essentially is temporal). You’ll also notice that I placed “GOD” outside of the box, because that space is endless and eternal! The following is on the next page —
SPACE, MASS & TIME
This particular “box” is often referred to as the Universe or the
Cosmos, and includes everything that exists outside of God, be
it visible or invisible, seen or unseen. The reality is, everything
that exists outside of our eternal God is temporal in nature and
was created by God (i.e., nothing that exists outside of God Him-
self always existed). Incidentally, nothing exists outside of the
temporal “box” but “GOD.” Keep in mind, everything that was
ever created by God was temporal in nature (not eternal); only
God is eternal in nature (i.e., only God has always existed). All
that exists outside of the eternality of God (be it visible or invis-
ible) is often referred to as Space, Mass & Time.
To help give definition to all that exists, remember everything that was created was temp-oral… only God is eternal — and that which is eternal goes on and on and on and on and on adinfinitum; i.e., it never had a beginning and it will never have an end; furthermore, it has absolutely no limit, and that is precisely why man can’t fathom GOD — that should not be a difficult construct for any believer to understand. No creature can fathom any-thing that transcends the temporal realm. Again, take a look at the “box” — everything in the box is temporal; i.e., it is very limited — though some things in the created order may appear to be extremely large, when one compares it with that which is eternal, all such things essentially are just a speck; keep in mind, that which is eternal possesses a depth to it that is trillions upon trillions of times bigger & deeper then the entire created order (in actuality, that which is eternal never ends! Thus it is not possible to compare a little temporal item with something that has absolutely no end to it; thus it cannot be perceived of by finite creatures. With that in mind, you’ll notice there is a lot of space outside of the temporal box, and that is GOD, who goes on and on and on and on adinfinitum, and completely transcends the entire temporal order! Keep in mind, only GOD exists outside of the box; nothing else exists in the eternal realm. In order to be fair to God regarding this issue, put a “tiny little box” out in the world somewhere, and then step back a few hundred yards from it — you’ll notice the tiny little box is almost invisible, and that the landscape is extremely dominant to your sight; well, that’s what it’s like to compare tem-poral reality with eternal reality (i.e., GOD)… everything outside of God is barely even visible, so to minimize God is absolute foolishness. Beloved, the foregoing is simply a way of comparing the entire created order with GOD (even though He is spiritual & not physical)… comparatively speaking the entire physical realm is almost nothing when it is compared with God (cf. Is 40:13-17)… so to say that the temporal realm is far larger then it is when comparing it to God, is absolute foolishness; the truth is, when one tries to compare that which is temporal with that which is eternal, essentially he comparing that which has extreme limitations with something that is totally unlimited (i.e., GOD); the reality is, there’s no comparison between the two. When gazing outside of the box, you’ll notice there is no end at all to that which is outside of it, because God is eternal and has absolutely no limitations. Now, since GOD is our eternal Creator, don’t limit Him and make Him a temporal being in your mind (because He is not at all temporal); though He is everywhere present (i.e., omnipresent), including in the entire temporal realm… He is not at all temporal — now though God exists everywhere, both in the eternal & temporal realms, He transcends the temporal realm in ways we cannot imagine (remember, God is everywhere present; be it in the temporal realm or the eternal realm). Incidentally, that’s why the greatest prophet in biblical history (Isaiah) said: “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket to God, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales… all the nations are as nothing before God… they are actually regarded by God as less than nothing and meaningless” (cf. Is 40:15-17 & Dan 4:35). Therefore, don’t make God out to be something He is not. Let me encourage you to look at the box again, and put the entire created order in that box (be it the Sun, Moon, Stars, Planets, Earth and everything else, including all creatures & non-creatures), and then notice that GOD radically transcends everything that exists. Now without understanding the eternality of God to a reasonable degree, one will minimize Him for who He truly is… yet how do finite creatures actually define God? Well, Scripture tells us that it is God who reveals Himself to man’s heart, and this He does only to those who humble themselves before Him. Obviously, without God communicating Himself to man, he would never come to know God (such would simply not be possible). Remember, since man cannot conceive of anything that is out-side of the temporal realm, the temporal world dominates man’s thinking; as such, even believers often misinterpret reality and see God in a different light; and such erroneous thinking is highly problematic.
Now to somehow make the deduction that anything GOD made may be problematic to HIM is absolute foolishness. Nothing exceeds Him, and everything is under His complete control — why a believer would struggle with believing that, is very difficult to know, be-cause there is absolutely no rationality to the contrary. To somehow place limitations on God is sheer lunacy, yet that defines fallen thinking. Since God planned the end from the beginning” (Is 46:9-11), to make some other deduction is to completely misunderstand the essence of that which is eternal… furthermore since GOD is eternal, absolutely nothing surprises Him (nothing whatsoever). Because God is eternal, omniscient & omnipotent, there is nothing He does not know (past, present or future). Furthermore, there is no such thing as happenstance in God’s world — to make such deductions is completely illogical; it is only deficient fallen minds that think such thoughts and make God out to be someone who possesses limited attributes like other creatures. The reason mankind makes such foolish deductions is that he is a fallen creature who makes fallen thinking the foundation of truth; so any reality that does not mesh with his thinking is rendered nonsense by him. Due to the fact that his heart has not been enlightened, darkness rules in his mind. Since we live in an age that actually thinks it is somewhat brilliant, let me once again quote the words of Paul to his friend Timothy — “In the last days difficult times will come (those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek). For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacher-ous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness… such men are led by various impulses, and are always learning yet never able to come to the knowledge of the truth… these men actually oppose the truth and are men of depraved minds” (cf. 2 Tim 3:1-8). Beloved, such is an accurate description of fallen man in this day in which we live; his learning is grounded in arrogance, thus he will never come to a knowledge of the truth (such is not possible for arrogant people); divine eternal truth is only reserved for those with a humble heart; remember God only gives grace to the humble and those with a contrite heart (cf. Is 66:2; Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5; Ps 51: 17; Ps 138:6).
The reality is, either we believe God’s Word (truth) or we believe nonsense (untruth). The resultant effect of the fall was this: God told Satan, “Cursed are you… I am going to crush you… and throw you into the lake of fire and brimstone, and you will be tor-mented day and night forever and ever!” (cf. Gen 3:14-15; Rom 6:20; Rev 20:10); incidentally, every creature who aligns himself with Satan will also be thrown into the lake of fire (cf. Rev 20:11-15; Mt 10:28; Mk 9:43; Jn 8:44). Ultimately the reality is — if there is anything God is going to do, it is “destroy sin” and everyone who embraces it! As the apostle Paul said, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unright-eousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness… therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity… for they exchanged the truth of God for a lie; thus the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things… be-cause of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds” (cf. Rom 1:18, 24, 25; 2:2, 5, 6). As I have stated in numer-ous studies, the reason God created man in the first place was the profound sinfulness of the Devil and his cohorts in eternity past; should that be a difficult construct for you to accept, let me encourage you once again to read a study I did on it titled, “Sin and Man’s Eternal Purpose” — simply go on my website: www.thetransformedsoul.com — and click on the “Additional Studies Link” in the upper right hand corner of the homepage; it’s only 13 pages long so take the time to read it. Now with all of the foregoing in mind, remember God has a reason for subjecting us to pain and difficulties in life, yet He does not tell us what the reason is (other then the fact that it helps grow our faith) — if you’ll read the book of Job, you will notice God never told Job “WHY” He subjected him to all of the painful things he went through; yet after Job conversed with God, he stopped arguing with God and accepted all that had transpired in his life. Following is the conversation that took place between Job and God —
Said the Lord to Job: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? So gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you and you instruct Me! Where were you when I laid the founda-tion of the earth? Tell Me if you have understanding.... Do you know the ordinances of the heavens, or fix their rule over the earth? .... Who has put wisdom in the innermost being, or has given under-standing to the mind?.... Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it (Job 38:1-4, 33; 40:2). Then Job answered the Lord and said, “Behold, what can I reply to Thee? I lay my hand on my mouth.” To which God responded, “Gird up your loins like a man; I will ask you and you instruct me. Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?.... Who then is he who can stand before Me? Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine” (Job 40:4, 7, 8; 41: 10-11). Then Job answered the Lord and said, “I know that Thou can do all things, and that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted… therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.... therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” .... and the Lord accepted Job… and blessed the latter days of his life more than his beginning… and after this Job lived 140 more years (Job 42:1-3. 6, 9, 12, 16). Remember, in the midst of his suffering, “Job cursed the day he was born, and extolled the blessings of death… yet complained that he could not die!” (Job 3:1-9). The reality is, Job assigned total darkness to the day that he was conceived. Beloved, if God does not remove the “painful negatives” from your life, what are you going to do? Just keep on arguing with Him? And stay mad at Him? Or are you going to accept things as they are? The reality is, nearly every believer will argue with God for years before he finally stops arguing, and accepts things as they are in life, without questioning one’s faith and argu-ing with God. As one grows in his faith, he will experience the “grace” that he needs to accept things as they are. Though it is a long row to hoe, it is the only row that wins the day… obviously it is not an easy road (it wasn’t for Job and it isn’t for us, and God knows that), yet it does ultimately bring us into the light. Beloved, without “grace” we don’t get there… so God’s grace plays an extremely important part in our lives — EXTREMELY IMPORTANT! Beloved, if you think you’re a person of “great faith,” then why do some little things really bother you? Contrary to what some believers might think, none of us fully experience a pleasant little life; there’s no such thing as a little utopia here on earth; though we all try to make it one, it does not occur; utopia only exists in the eternal realm. The reality is this: our faith needs to exceed the most painful negatives we experience in life, and that doesn’t happen with a simple little prayer (as previously stated); it is a process we go through as believers that involves “fighting the good fight of faith” (cf. 1 Tim 6:12). As Paul said, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am… be it weaknesses, distresses, persecutions and difficulties” (cf. Phil 4:11; 2 Cor 12:10; 4:8-10). It took time for Paul to finally understand that “nothing good dwells within him (i.e., in his flesh) — the wishing to be good is there, but the doing of good is not” (Rom 7:18); as pre-viously stated, that simply describes fallen man (sin and darkness reigns in his flesh).
Beloved, it is when we are subjected to some very difficult negatives in life (as Job was), that we come to the end of ourselves, and see reality for what it really is. To help give definition to this precept, put yourself in a very disconcerting situation… you’ll notice you aren’t responding as wonderfully as you would like (which is the norm for fallen creatures) — our problem is that we don’t see ourselves as corrupt and sinful as we really are; instead we see ourselves as being relatively good — remember the words of Jesus, “There is none good, but God alone!” (cf. Lk 18:19; Rom 3:10-18). Obviously without fully understanding our innate-fallenness, which is a difficult construct for us to accept, the quote just stated defines reality as Jesus expressed it. Is it any wonder then why we are not “super-happy creatures,” and that we live in a world of disorder, turmoil, violence, chaos, agitation, suffering, pain, confusion, apathy, self-centeredness and restlessness? Remember, this world is simply the summation of fallen human beings… though as be-lievers we can be JOYFUL if we are strong in the faith, the truth is, there is very little HAPPINESS in life because the circumstances of life are not all wonderful and pleasant; by the way, the word “happy” is a derivative of the Old Norse word “happ” from which we get our English words “happy” and “happen” — when something happens to us that we like, we are happy; on the contrary when something happens to us that we don’t like, we are not happy; so happiness depends upon circumstances… but that is not the case with this thing called joy, because it totally depends upon Christ’s presence in our lives (joy has nothing to do with the circumstances of life). Regarding this thing called “joy,” the fullness of it is experienced when there is a deep sense of God’s presence in one’s life; so joy is a state of well-being that results from knowing and serving God… it is the fruit of a right relation with God. Remember the words of the angel to the shepherds when Christ was born into the world, “Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (cf. Lk 2:10-11). The night before Jesus went to the cross, He said to His disciples, “I am the true vine… every branch that abides in Me bears much fruit… if you keep My commandments you will abide in My love… and My joy will be in you, and your joy will be made full” (cf. Jn 15:1-11; also Jn 16:16, 20, 22, 24). Remember, joy is a gift of God that is grounded in God Himself (cf. Ps 16:11; Rom 15:13; 1 Th 1:6; 1 Jn 1:4). Now if your faith is not grounded in Christ alone, “joy” will not be a dominant presence in your life; instead you will frequently be lacking in joy (incidentally, that is the “norm” for most Christians in our world)… as stated over and over again, it should be obvious to every believer, we are not men and women of “great faith” (we all still have a lot of growing to do, and be-ing that prayer and studying God’s Word are not nearly as significant as they should be in believers lives, their faith essentially is a fairly remedial faith). I know I am saying some things here that are difficult to understand & believe, but this is what God’s Word teaches… since that is the case, every believer needs to align himself with divine truth and abide in Christ; again, it cannot happen until one is fully committed to Christ, and makes Him the premiere goal in one’s life. To continue to make this world the most prominent thing in your life (be it your job, your house, your car, sports, your achieve-ments, traveling about, enjoying friendships, watching television, going to movies, buy-ing things for yourself, etc., etc., etc.), you are going to suffer accordingly… why would God let you be “joyful” in life, if your faith in Christ wasn’t the premiere thing in your life? Again, this isn’t some strange construct that only a few Christians experience; it is essentially experienced by nearly every believer. The question is, are you ready to make Christ the “center” of your life? Or are the things of this world simply too important to you? Again, this is an issue that most Christians really struggle with… for some reason they thought Christ would be an integral part of their life by causing everything to work as they so desire things to work, and make them happy in life.
Beloved, I have listed a number of verses throughout this study, if you do not take the time to reflect upon them, you may actually be inclined to argue against much of what is written. Let me give you a few more verses to reflect upon regarding the life God has so willed for us (cf. Jn 16:33; Acts 14:22; Rom 8:22-23; 2 Cor 4:7-11; Gal 5:16-17; Phil 1:6; 3:10-14; 4:11-13; 1 Th 5:24; 1 Tim 6:12; Heb 12:4-11; Jam 1:2-3; 4:6-8; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 4:1, 12; 5:6-11; 2 Pet 3:18). Remember, this is a study you’re looking at, not just a casual read, so treat it accordingly. The reality is, if you don’t understand God’s call upon your life, you are going to be in a constant state of unrest, confusion and frustration. Now because we often don’t see God working in our lives the way we would like to see Him work, we have a tendency to question everything, including our faith, and wonder why God isn’t expressing Himself to us in more positive ways (incidentally, that is simply the product of fleshly thinking — remember, our flesh plays a very significant role in our lives). As fallen creatures who have placed their trust in Christ, we have a tendency to assume that once we repent in dust and ashes, that all is now well (which it is), but then we take it a step further and make the assumption that God will remove all the negatives from our lives (which often times does not happen be-cause that is not what God has so willed in the moment). Keep in mind, that deduction does not mesh with divine reality; that is simply a fleshly deduction. Remember the words of the Lord to His disciples, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). Likewise, Paul stated, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). Stated Peter, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Him-self perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Pet 5:10). Beloved, God doesn’t sub-ject us to hardship and suffering without reason, and once it fulfills His purpose, He will remove it from us, just as He did in Job’s life (read Job 42:10-17 and Heb 12:4-11). Keep in mind, our faith must ultimately triumph over the negatives we experience in life. There may be times when things do radically change for the better, yet that does not always occur in life; sometimes God leaves negatives on our plate for a fairly significant period of time. One more thought (just in case you’re not getting it), our faith is not built on happy situations; furthermore, our eternal future is far more important than living a happy life in this fallen world. Carefully reflect upon all the verses that have been listed — keep in mind, this is a study, not a casual read.
Let’s continue to define the repentant life — when we sin in life, we must see it as some-thing that is contrary to the law of God and His will for our lives; because when we sin, we are sinning against God (not just doing something that is wrong). As David said to the Hebrew prophet Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam 12:13; cf. 2 Sam 11:27), and to the Lord Himself he said, “Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned” (Phil 51:4). Though we may do wrong to somebody, it is the Lord we are sinning against (Ps 41:4). Said the psalmist, “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee” (Ps 119:11). God alone is truth, therefore to sin is to embrace untruth and disobey truth. Remember, “we worship God in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:24); conversely, we are to walk in the truth; when we don’t, we sin. All sin is against God and His holy law. It is our flesh that is constantly waging war against the Spirit; i.e., “the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Gal 5:17). Thus we must not only confess our sins to God, but atone for them if we have done wrong to someone; i.e., make restitution with them — in so doing, we must express our sorrow to them and ask for their forgiveness — remember the words of the Lord, “If you forgive men their transgres-sions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (cf. Mt 6:14; also Mt 7:2-5; Mk 11:25-26; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13); conversely, if we have done something wrong to someone, we must make amends before attempting to worship God — because if we don’t correct the wrong we did, God is not going to minister grace to our hearts. By the way, the Greek word that is translated “forgiveness” is “aphesis;” which literally conveys the idea of “sending away” (Mt 26:28); remember, it is the blood of Jesus that atones for our sins & yields eternal forgiveness (cf. Heb 10:10-12)… so all of our sins are cast into the deepest sea, never to rise again. Keep in mind, God created man because “sin” existed in the heavenly realm (which was the cause of Satan)… though Adam and Eve fell when Satan tempted them in the Garden of Eden, God so willed that over a billion fallen creatures down through the ages would become His children through the redemptive work of Christ on the cross… in so doing, He ordered them to “wage war” against Satan and their own sinfulness; and at the end of the age, God would then completely destroy this thing called sin and every creature that continued to embrace it. So, if you want to know why you exist, that should not be a difficult construct for you to understand — “SIN” is the most perplexing reality in the history of the universe; thus if there is anything a believer must get full command of (other than Christ), it is this thing called “sin!” Yes it is something that is very dis-tressing, but it is also something that God completely overcame through the death of His Son on the cross. Is that mind-boggling? You bet it is! Death exists because of “sin!” So to make light of sin is absolute foolishness! Yet the redemptive work of Christ on the cross far exceeds the diabolical work of Satan and his minions both in the heavenly realm and here in the earthly realm — “and wherein did sin abound, did grace much more abound!” (cf. Rom 5:20); there is nothing more incredible in the entire created order than God giving undeserved grace to fallen creatures, and it vastly exceeds their sinfulness. Said the apostle John, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). When we confess our sins unto the Lord, God fully pardons & forgives us of our sins; as David said, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our transgressions from us” (cf. Ps 103:12; Is 38: 17; Heb 9:26; 10:17). Beloved, keep in mind, only the BIBLE teaches that God completely forgives sin; no other religion or religious book in the world teaches the full forgiveness of sins. So when we sin, we must humbly confess our sins to the Lord and experience His grace and His forgiveness.
GENUINE REPENTANCE RESULTS IN WORSHIP
Now as we as believers walk through life in this world what is of utmost importance is that we “constantly commune with God;” i.e. that we talk to God often through out the course of a day and let Him talk to us — which involves praying to God (talking to Him)… studying His word (letting God talk to us)… and worshipping Him for who He really is. Keep in mind, God didn’t create us to be creatures who are completely independent of Him; if we were animals, that would be one thing, but we are God’s greatest creatures whom He loves unconditionally with an everlasting love; never does He stop loving us! Now if God is not the GOD of our lives, then these things won’t have much impact up- on our lives. Incidentally, GOD is the Creator and Lord of the universe, the Redeemer of His people, the Author of Scripture, and the Object of Worship (i.e., the infinite reality that all of His creatures are to embrace and ascribe worth to; now though that somewhat defines God, because He has an eternal nature we simply cannot fully comprehend Him. The truth is, He is not close to being comprehensible, because His infinite nature is com-pletely without limitations; since we as finite creatures have extreme limitations; the two of us are completely incomparable; one cannot compare finite beings with that which is infinite. As R. C. Sproul stated in his book, “Essential Truths of the Christian Faith” (Tyndale House): The incomprehensibility of God is an axiom that conveys one of the most important doctrines of orthodox Christianity; though God can be known to us in a limited way because of the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds, He cannot be fully known to us. Remember, as God’s creatures we have extremely small minds, so to insist on understanding the fullness of God, is to minimize God (i.e., make Him less than He is) and elevate ourselves. Now regarding “worshipping God,” essentially it is a corollary of “repentance;” (remember, we are fallen creatures; saved yes, but fallen nonetheless)… so when we worship God we acknowledge our sinfulness and our need of Christ; in so doing we ultimately end up “ascribing worth to God” (because He is worthy). How can one possibly not ascribe worth to God, sense He is the one who fully atoned for our sins, and is now “ever making intercession for us at the throne of God” (cf. Heb 7:25; 4:14-16; 13:20-21) — beloved, to not ascribe worth to God is to be extremely self-centered, and minimize God and His redemptive love for us. Remember, we don’t have a human high-priest, our High Priest is the resurrected Son of God! (Heb 2:17-18; 4:14-16; 7:24-26). To expand upon the following, remember all sin is against God — sin is not just some wrongdoing that we did, that has absolutely nothing to do with God; all sin is God-related, therefore we can’t ex-clude Him from the wrong that we did. Keep in mind, God is the one against whom we sin… so our sinful inner-core is constantly wrestling with God, in spite of the fact that we are His children; our sinfulness essentially shows us how shallow our faith really is. To shed light on this thing called sin, essentially when you are tempted to do wrong, you are faced with two options: either you obey God or you diobey God (remember, that is the foundation of every sin that we commit, whether you believe it or not); obviously if you disobey God, you let your flesh rule over God in the moment; so to claim that you didn’t sin against God is a complete contradiction of reality; so to disavow what was just stated is to see reality different than it is. With the foregoing in mind, when we repent of our sins before God, HE is the one who forgives us of our sin & removes its guilt from our lives. So when God forgives us for sinning against Him, that should cause us to ascribe great worth to Him and give praise to Him and bless His Holy Name! Think about it, if you did something really wrong to your best friend, and ended up suffering in your heart for more than a year for having done so, and then you finally decided to confess your sins and make everything right with him… now should he fully forgive you and put his arms around you, would that not be a very significant response to what you did? Or would you simply remain fully embarrassed for doing what you did? Though the foregoing is not a coequivalent of God’s own forgiveness of us when we sin (because His forgiveness far exceeds fallen man’s forgiveness), nevertheless, that should help us see the significance of His incredible love for us (in spite of our sinfulness). The truth is, as fallen creatures we cannot fathom the greatness of God’s forgiveness and His love for us; it is actually stun- ning, because His love for us is not only unconditional, it is everlasting! (cf. Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8; 8:35-39; Eph 2:4; 3:18-19; 1 Jn 4:10; Ps 136:1-26; Jer 31:3). Said David, “I call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised” (cf. 2 Sam 22:4; Ps 18:3). Keep in mind, when the 24 elders in heaven fell down before God who was sitting on the throne, they said to Him, “Worthy art Thou our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created” (Rev 4:11)… obviously the angelic world knew that “EVERYTHING IN EXISTANCE WAS THE WORK OF GOD,” that “ABSOLUTELY NOTHING EXISTS OUTSIDE OF GOD!” So the angelic world didn’t mini-mize God; they saw Him for who He truly is — THE SOURCE OF ALL THINGS! Yet here is fallen man today arguing to the contrary without any evidence whatsoever… he not only minimizes God, he questions God’s existence, and His claim to be the Creator of all things; furthermore, he doesn’t see God’s forgiveness as a significant reality that he needs to embrace; so fallen man today essentially rejects God — now with the foregoing in mind, remember fallen creatures can only conceive of things that are TEMPORAL, and even the vast majority of temporal things far exceeds their thinking… keep in mind, God is not a temporal creature, He is an ETERNAL CREATURE, and that which is eternal tran- scends the entire temporal realm an endless number of times (i.e., that which is eternal goes on and on and on adinfinitum; in actuality, there is no end whatsoever to that which is eternal). So the question is this: If God is worthy of our worship (and He clearly is), then why do believers frequently neglect to worship Him? (i.e., why do they actually fail to focus on Him and ascribe worth to Him)… though believers may go to church, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are actually worshipping God. Remember the words of Jesus: “Those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth” (cf. Jn 4:24); keep in mind, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek — so genuine worship must be grounded in the humble heart of the believer… and involve divine truth as God has so revealed it in His Word; i.e., it needs to correspond with God’s divine revelation and His will. Now being as GOD is the one we ascribe worth to in worship, because He is fully worthy of our worship, He is the one we focus on, and give praise to, and glorify; and this we do with a very humble heart. Since that is what it means to “worship,” don’t change the discourse and simply make attending some worship service the essence of worship; that does not at all define genuine worship. To the regret of many believers, they seldom truly worship God… keep in mind, when we humble ourselves before God and ascribe worth to Him, God does a work in our hearts and minds; the truth is, genuine worship plays a very significant role in growing our faith. Now should man make GOD out to be less than He really is, He will be far less significant to him then He needs to be. If God is not the foundation of all that goes on in our lives, essentially we will live very self-centered lives, and our faith will be very remedial faith. Again, the problem is our fleshly fallen minds; they are grossly evil & self-centered, and constantly distort reality.
With the foregoing in mind, let’s reflect upon the following questions — Why do so many believers minimize God and make Him a distant reality in their lives? Why are they reluc-tant to make God the center of their lives? Why don’t they spend a significant amount of time studying God’s Word? Why isn’t worshipping God extremely important to them? And then there are the questions that rule in the hearts and minds of many believers — Why can’t we just enjoy life for what it is, without consciously making God the center of everything in life? Why can’t we please God when we live life to the best of our ability? Why can’t we please God by attending a worship service every week? Obviously, those are very provocative questions; perhaps the following constructs will help answer those questions. Remember, God is the creator and the source of all that exists, and everything that exists He made for a reason; as such, everything that occurs in our lives essentially is the will of God — as God’s children, nothing we experience in life is simply mere hap-penstance (did you hear that?). There is a divine reason for everything that occurs in our lives as believers; nothing happens for no reason. Remember the words of the Lord to the prophet Isaiah, “Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand… I am God, there is no other… I have declared the end from the beginning… My purpose will be established… truly I will bring it to pass” (cf. Is 14:24; 46: 9-11). Now if God simply made us to live independent of Him (like He did animals), that would be one thing, but that is not the way God made us. Remember, human beings are made in God’s Image; we were not made in the image of animals (Gen 1:26). Keep in mind, God didn’t make us creatures to live independent of Him; He created us in His image that we would depend upon Him and live to the praise of His glory… but when Adam and Eve sinned and destroyed their relationship with God, humanity inherited a sinful inner-core and became self-centered creatures; as such, God took steps to redeem man through the cross of Christ and make him His children forever… in so doing, they are destined to ex- perience a glorious eternal life with His Son — in spite of the fact that at this point they cannot fully fathom what is going to take place at the end of the age! Remember, when we enter into heaven, God is going to remove our diabolical bodies and our sinful flesh from us, and make us glorified creatures who are going to be “co-heirs with His Son!” In so doing, as God’s children we will reign with Him over the entire universe forever! Obviously, with our fallen finite minds we can’t even imagine what that is going to be like; yet every believer in the heavenly realm will live an incredibly glorious life that no human being ever came close to living here on earth… the truth is, there’s no way for us to compare the heavenly realm with what we have experienced here on earth; the two are simply incomparable. Remember, all of creation groans because it is under the curse that God subjected it to after the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (cf. Gen 3:17- 19; 5:29; Rom 8:20-23), so don’t try and make it out to be something it is not. Keep in mind, we are talking about heaven, and this world in which we live is vastly inferior to the new heaven and the new earth God is going to create (cf. Rev 21:1), and in so doing He is going to destroy the entire created order – the heavens will pass away with a roar, and all the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up, and all of its elements will melt with intense heat (cf. 2 Pet 3:7, 10-12). So to minimize the significance of the heavenly realm that awaits us, is to grossly minimize the incredible life God has so willed for us at the end of the age. Now simply because we cannot fully fathom it, does that mean that we should ignore the glorious future that awaits us? Such reckless thinking would be akin to a person rejecting a trillion dollar bill (simply because he cannot not fully identify it for what it is); thus, he chooses to satisfy himself with a one-hundred thousand dollar bill… beloved, those two bills are drastically different; though they are completely incomparable, yet to choose a one-hundred thousand dollar bill over a trillion dollar bill is to be absolutely dubbed! That would be like rejecting God because He cannot be visualized; once again, here is man’s temporal mind foolishly ruling in his life. Keep in mind, though no eternal reality can be fully understood at this point in life, nevertheless they can be embraced because God has so willed that we do so; remember, we believe in GOD in spite of the fact that we can’t see Him (that’s how “faith” works; God grants us the assurance and the conviction of divine truth when we humble our-selves before Him… we don’t walk by sight, we walk by faith – cf. 2 Cor 5:7; Heb 11:1); the problem with many believers is that they insist on walking by sight in this world.
Beloved, here are a few other questions for you to reflect upon: Do you see yourself as a by-product of God’s work, or do you think you are the by-product mere happen-stance? Now if you think God did made you, why do you think He made you? On the other hand, do you think you are a physical creature that is simply the result of some sex- ual experience by two human beings? Though it is fairly easy to draw that conclusion, that does not fully coincide with what Scripture teaches (cf. Ps 139:13-16). The premiere question is this: Did God not have a reason for making you the person you are and the person He wanted you to be? (cf. Ps 139:13-16). If for some reason you don’t see God as the Eternal Creator of all things to the praise of His glory, God is not going to be a very strong presence in your life; in spite of the fact that He made you. As previously stated, your future in the heavenly realm is going to be so glorious, when it actually occurs you are going to be completely stunned! The entire heavenly realm is going to be so immense and gorgeous, it is going to be absolutely mind-boggling to all of God’s creatures; it is going to be so beautiful our new minds will forever be in awe of all God has created… this world in which we now live is nothing in comparison to the glorious heavenly realm that awaits us at the end of the age (cf. Is 40:15-17; Rev 21:5-7; 10-27). To somehow think that God’s eternal plan for His children isn’t that big a deal, is so nonsensical it is not worth commenting on… remember, we are talking about GOD, the supreme reality of every-thing that exists. Regarding His glorious plan for the entire heavenly realm, there is nothing in existence that is comparable to what God has in store for those creatures that He died for. To somehow make God out to be less than He is, and not be completely in awe of Him, is to grossly minimize God and make Him out to be more human and less divine; the truth is, there is only ONE ETERNAL GOD, and He is the ABSOLUTE SOURCE of all that exists… and all that is going to exist in the heavenly realm completely trans- cends human logic and human comprehension — remember, there will no limit whatso-ever as to what transpires in the heavenly realm… it will go on and on adinfinitum!!! Imagine the entire human race today, it can’t even fathom something one trillion miles deep… yet in the eternal realm, that will be a speck of dust!!! Again, imagine God for who He really is — He not only created every aspect of our being, He actually died for us to atone for our sins that we might live with Him forever in paradise… though that is true, that is a very difficult construct for us to fathom — why would God die for people who hated Him; i.e., people who were His enemies? And why would He bring them into the heavenly realm and wipe away every tear from their eyes, and no longer let them ex-perience death, mourning, crying, or pain (which is precisely what this fallen world is all about – cf. Rev 21:4); it is absolutely incredible to think that He is going to remove every negative from our lives. Now since we are God’s children (because of His redemptive work on the cross), for Him to now ignore us would not only be irrational, but completely unreasonable — imagine completely ignoring your own children in life, knowing full well that you are the premiere source of everything that goes on in their lives; yet you choose to remove yourself from their lives and fail to be the most significant thing in their lives? What kind of stupidity would that be? And you call yourself a loving parent? The pro-blem with fallen man is that he basically makes deductions that he can pretty much live however he wants to live; i.e., that he can basically do as he pleases in life. However, if God doesn’t reign supreme in a believer’s life, He will not have a significant presence in his life… in actuality, should one choose to make God number two in his life, as op-posed to number one, God will not at all have a profound presence in his life. Beloved, that should be pretty obvious to every believer, because the distance between being first in one’s life, and being second in one’s life, is drastically different, in particular when one is referring to God, because his own flesh will essentially rule in his life. To think one can make God number two in his life, is to be completely fooled by Satan — if that is the case in your life, you would be better off living completely in dark, because you are strongly offending God by choosing to reduce His significance in your life; by the way, by making God a non-player in your life (if indeed you are truly a believer), means you are going to live a very miserable life; happiness will not at all define your life; beloved, if that defines you, you better make amends and realign your self with God’s will. The truth is, to make God the second creature of your life, is to be the religious reality of your life, just as it was to the ancient Jewish world — again, that doesn’t sit well with God; so either embrace Christ completely, or back away completely… though that doesn’t honor God, degrading God is far worse! Remember God is ETERNAL… we are TEMPORAL (i.e., EXTREMELY LIMITED in comarison to God), so to live a life that ignores God is to live a life that neither honors God nor pleases God, thus he will live a life that bears no fruit. It is when we lessen God and make Him out to be less than He really is, that we remove Him from our lives, and embrace our own fleshly nature; yet that is what fallen man does — he is simply so “self-centered,” that nothing outside of himself is that significant to him. Obviously the foregoing construct is not an easy one for man to fully understand and em- brace, but to not do so is to make God a non-player in one’s life, and make oneself out to be far greater then he is; which is absolute mindlessness in comparison to what God has revealed to us in His Word.
Remember, nothing exists anywhere in all of creation that is worthy of ascribing worth to except GOD Himself — why’s that? because the entire created order is under the curse; it is only a matter of time until it is completely destroyed (cf.Gen 3:17; Rom 8:22; 2 Pet 3:8-13; Rev 21:1). Perhaps the questions that needs to be answered is this: Why would one not want to ascribe worth to God throughout his whole life? Is He not worthy of continual praise? For one to deny that God is worthy of his worship, is to conclude that he simply has not been convinced of God’s presence and the fact that He merits being worshipped; by the way, this occurs when fallen man refuses to humble himself before God (in spite of the fact that God has evidenced Himself to the heart of every man – cf. Rom 1:18-23; 2:15; Ecc 3:11). Since arrogant man refuses to humble himself before God, fleshly thinking rules in his heart. Remember, God is the foundation of all that exists and all that is good, and there is absolutely no wickedness in Him (that’s why He is referred to as being HOLY!); with that in mind, do you have a difficult time worshipping Him? Again, the reason fal- len man does not want to worship God, is that he is a very “self-centered” creature who insists on being “completely autonomous” (i.e., running his own life and being the god of his own life); incidentally, such was the issue that governed Satan in the ancient past prior to God’s creating man; Satan had said to himself, “I will make myself like the Most High” (cf. Is 14:14); and that is precisely what moved Adam and Eve into the fallen realm; they wanted to be autonomous creatures (cf. Gen 3:4-5). The reality is, all unrepentant sin-ners simply insist on being the “god” of their own lives, rather than making GOD their master. Now with the foregoing in mind, why is it that believers also struggle with wor-shipping God? Well two reasons stand out — remember, our fallen inner-core (i.e., our flesh) is extremely self-centered, and it has a profound presence in our lives; the last thing it wants to do is focus on God… secondly, when we experience painful negatives in life, our sinful inner-core becomes extremely disturbed, frustrated and unhappy (remember, our fallen inner-core is exactly the same as that of Satan, Adam & Eve — it simply has its own values and likes what it likes… when we experience what our flesh likes, oftentimes it feels good; when we experience what our flesh doesn’t like oftentimes it doesn’t feel good. With that in mind, when God doesn’t make our lives pleasant & give us what we want in life, our flesh will express itself… as such we as believers will have a difficult time responding positively back to God — remember, we are fleshly creatures; thus our flesh always expresses itself when various things happen in our lives; when frustration rules in our hearts & minds, that’s when we find it difficult to praise and worship God — why’s that? because our flesh tends to rule in the moment when we experience painful negatives. Thus what we experience in life is extremely important to us; when negatives dominate what goes on in our lives we won’t feel good, instead we become frustrated and discouraged… conversely, when positives dominate our lives, we become happy and feel good — what believers need to remember is that “feelings” essentially are the by-product of our flesh… so our feelings are obviously important to our fleshly inner-core — if we don’t feel good in the moment we won’t feel happy; if we do feel good in the moment, we will feel happy. Remember, the premiere goal of the flesh is to “be happy and feel good!” To expand upon this subject a little more, it is important to remember that some of the things that our flesh likes will not make us happy or make us feel good (i.e., things like immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, drunkenness, carousing, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, envying, stealing, cheating, unrighteousness, wic-kedness, deceit, malice, arrogance, haters of God, boastfulness, being untrustworthy, unforgiving, unloving and unmerciful; obviously, some things our flesh likes are com-pletely diabolical and sinful… yet there are some things our flesh likes that we like, things like feeling good physically, overcoming sickness, not suffering, not hurting, not experiencing negatives, winning a ballgame, getting something restored, selling something for a good price, traveling and staying in a beautiful area, having fun with friends, eating a great meal, and accomplishing some significant goals in life; etc.). Obviously not everything in life is pleasing to us or makes us feel good; though some things do make us feel good, some things make us feel bad.
So this thing called worship can be difficult at times, depending on what it is we are ex-periencing in life. Though negatives often strongly influence our thinking… our innate-sinfulness also constantly influences our thinking — for instance, can you imagine being in heaven with the entire angelic world and worshipping God every day? Though that may be a crazy question, can you imagine it? Because you are a fleshly creature, I can almost hear you question it: Is it really necessary to worship God every day? Isn’t that a big much? Why are you over-emphasizing it? Beloved, I didn’t mention the forgoing to cause you to question God, I mentioned it to show you how incredibly sinful our fallen nature really is — we are grossly fallen creatures who have a very self-centered nature; with that in mind, God is not the only thing that matters to us… our own desires and our own fleshly thinking also play a very important role in our lives, and it is our flesh that God is constantly working against. Remember, our flesh is in complete opposition to God, and God is in complete opposition to our flesh (Gal 5:17). By the way, that statement is strongly stated in Scripture — God despises our flesh and our flesh despises God! Though that is true, none of us as believers fully understand that; though we see ourselves as being sinners, due to the fact we have a fleshly nature we actually end up minimizing our sinfulness (because our fleshly nature controls a lot of our thinking); thus we don’t see our fleshly inner-core as being that despicable — are you tracking with what is being said? Remember, our flesh strongly influences our thinking on pretty much everything we go through in life (it is actually the root of much of our thinking), so we must study what Scripture clearly states and embrace what it says, contrary to what our fallen minds may say — it might be helpful to remember that many churches in the Christian world do not fully embrace what Scripture states; the reason being is that it does not correspond with their fallen thinking; so fallen thinking not only strongly influences unbelievers, it also strongly influences believers. Keep in mind, as fallen creatures our flesh is often at the forefront of much of our thinking. Now though we didn’t see ourselves as being very sinful as young children, as we grew older we became much more exposed to our sinful-ness; and now as elders we are even more aware of it; by the way, that is simply the road that God so willed that we travel down. Now due to the fact that our flesh has a very pronounced presence in our lives (no believer can fully argue against that), it is difficult for us to fully understand everything that transpires in our lives because of our flesh… now since everything our flesh likes is not necessarily “grossly evil” (remember, even Satan disguised himself as “an angel of light” – 2 Cor 11:14), so “deception” often rules in this dark world that we live in — consider the following: Being as you are a golf fanatic, when a friend of your asks you to play golf with him on a Sunday morning with some of your other friends in a big tournament — the question is: will you or will you not play? Do you view golf on Sunday morning as being no different then golf on any other morn-ing? Do you see it as something you simply should not do because you won’t be able to attend church? or do you see it as not at all being “a problem” just because it happened to be played on Sunday morning? And then there are other situations: your parents and friends invite you to go to dinner with them & then attend a “PG-13 Rated Movie” — do you think it’s okay to attend “PG-13 Rated Movies,” but not “R-Rated Movies”? And then there is the issue of drinking bear and wine; is it okay for you to drink bear & wine? Is it okay for you to drink in a Restaurant, but not in a Bar? Are you open to either one? Or are you fairly restrictive as to where you would go? Obviously, different believers have different opinions on such things; the question is, what is influencing your decision? Your flesh or your spirit? Or is it pretty much irrelevant to you? Much of what our flesh desires is frequently seen as a “positive,” not a negative… so our flesh is not as easily judged as it needs to be; nevertheless, we must fight the good fight of faith and reject the influence that our flesh has upon our lives. It is because our flesh is an integral part of who we are, it naturally influences everything we think… so this thing called the flesh isn’t some simple little issue. Remember, our innate sinfulness was so corrupt Christ died for it, and He is going to completely destroy every element of sin at the end of the age, along with every fallen creature who despises Him & embraces sin (which not only includes human creatures, but angelical creatures as well). Obviously our sinful nature is a very perplexing one to us, just as our spiritual nature is… due to the fact that we possess a dichotomy of two natures, we must give very careful consideration to exactly what God’s Word teaches. Remember, “God has revealed divine truth to man through His written word that he might embrace Him and repent and turn from his sinfulness.” Beloved, since our flesh is far more sinful and self-centered than any of us as fallen creatures can imagine, we must humble ourselves before the Lord and study His Word. The question is, are we going to believe Him or are we going to believe our own sinful flesh? Obviously, this isn’t some simplistic little issue we are addressing; as believers we need to understand our old diabolical nature that still exists in us as God’s Word clearly states, and understand our new spiritual nature as His Word clearly states… beloved, there are no other options.
Now due to the fact our flesh is frequently on the throne in our lives (which far exceeds what most believers think), sometimes it is difficult for us to focus on God rather than ourselves; the truth is, our flesh has a very strong presence in our lives; in order to im-mediately remove it from the throne of our lives in the moment, we must take the time to humbly commune with God for about ten minutes; it doesn’t take an hour to do so, unless one has completely thrown himself into the mud for a long period of time; and if that is the case then it may take a few hours to clean the slate. The long & short of it is, God simply requires that we take the time to humbly pour out our heart to the Lord (cf. Ps 32:3-5; 46:1; 69:1, 16; 144:7). Keep in mind, our fallen inner-core (i.e., our flesh) has a completely self-centered diabolical nature in which nothing good exists, so God is the only one we can genuinely worship and ascribe worth to; i.e., He is the only one in exis-tance who is worthy of our worship! Who else would you ascribe worth to? (remember, every human being is a fallen creature, so to ascribe worth to someone else other than God is simply a matter of diabolical thinking (i.e., complete mindlessness); but that’s what defines fallen creatures. Personally, I find it amazing at how quickly human minds run off into the dark when they are confronted with things they don’t fully understand… the truth is, our fallen minds only embrace things that are temporal (because that is all they can relate to); anything eternal is simply a non-player in their book; as incredible as it may sound, they refuse to even give serious consideration to that which is eternal (i.e., God), so they deny His existence or make the claim that such things are not knowable. Now since man himself is the product of God (he is not the product of himself), for him to reject God is as perverse as one can get; yet that is precisely what defines fallen man. Beloved, it is “our perversion” that is the problem; “we are grossly perverted creatures who live lives of pretense” (i.e., we pretend to be something we are not; that word literally means “to give false appearance of being” — remember the words of Jesus, “There is none good but God alone!” – cf. Lk 18:19); yet fallen man argues to the contrary because of the perversity of his inner-core… so due to the limitations of his fallen mind he simply does not see reality for what it really is; thus none of his arguments are grounded in truth. Re-member, when man rejects divine truth, the sum-total of his thinking is untruth; as such, all of his argumentations are the product of fallen thinking. All one needs to do is look at our political world, they claim that they can make this world a wonderful glorious place to live! Which is completely contrary to what God Himself says! Man cannot make this world a little utopia! Though he has tried and tried and tried, yet all he has produced is a perverted world! And ironically the leaders of this world want us to “WORSHIP THEM!” (i.e., ascribe great worth to them); beloved, sheer arrogance reigns supreme in this world, and the vast majority of this world embraces it. One can only imagine how severe their punishment is going to be at the end of the age on the day of judgment; especially those who have grossly spoken out against God & Jesus Christ. Now with all of the foregoing in mind, it should be clear to the believing world, sin is the result of walking in the dark (i.e., letting one’s flesh rule in his life, and not pleasing God); furthermore, repentance is not just a matter of cleaning the slate in our lives, and then running our own lives again; that does not at all coincide with genuine repentance; essentially repentance is a matter of fully acknowledgeing God’s will for our lives, and embracing His will. Remember the prayer Jesus taught His disciples: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:9-10); when we pray, we are to pray that God’s will be done (not our will – cf. Rom 12:2; 1 Pet 4:2) — that was even the prayer of Jesus to His Father (cf. Mt 26:39; Lk 22:42). Since “grace” (i.e., God’s undeserved favor) is the foundation of a God-ordained life, we must Study God’s Word… Pray to God… and Worship God to experience His grace; i.e., to experience God’s un-merited favor in your life; keep in mind, none of us merit God’s grace at any point in life! If that is a difficult construct for you to understand and accept, you better study it in great length, because no human being in history has ever merited God’s grace. Now if the three things just mentioned are not “highly significant” to you, then your flesh is on the throne in your life — the reality is, since our flesh has a strong presence in our lives, we often don’t study God’s Word… pray to God… or worship God as we need to. Though God has provided the path for His people to follow, few of them spend much time traveling down that road — why is that? their flesh simply has too strong a presence in their lives (cf. Gal 5:17). Now with the foregoing in mind, let’s reflect upon each of these three elements:
1. Bible Study — Scripture is God’s revelation to man regarding divine truth; it is the Word of God Himself that is completely error free — thus it is referred to as the Word of Truth. The reality is, truthfulness is an attribute of God and all of His works (cf. Ps 25:10; 40:11; 57:3) — God not only possesses truth, He is truth – all truth! Thus God’s Word is both true and reliable; i.e., it defines reality (Ps 119:89). Remember, Scripture is referred to as “God’s Word” and “the Book of Truth” (Dan 10:21)… “that God is not a man that He should lie” (cf. Num 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29; Ps 89:35)… “that the Lord is the God of truth” (Ps 31:5)… The psalmist affirms God’s words as true (119:16). Scripture tells us that God is both true and truthful (cf. Jn 3:33; 7:28; 8:26; 27:3; 1 Th 1:9; 1 Jn 5:20; Rom 3:7; 15:8; Jn 17:17). The Westminster Catechism says “The Bible is infallible truth, and is wholly trustworthy and reliable.” As James Montgomery Boice states it in his book titled “Foundations of the Christian Faith,” Bible study is a communication that goes one way — from God to man. God graciously speaks to men’s hearts when they “humble” themselves before Him. The reason for studying God’s Word must be to “know God;” in so doing, God faithfully speaks to our hearts through His Word (by the Holy Spirit), and reveals His will to us. Obviously we must study the Word with the understanding that God wants to speak to our hearts… that studying God’s Word means to humbly give careful consideration to what it says, and that means paying very close attention to the context of some particular passage; the two questions one must ask is, “What is God saying, and Why is He saying it?” To simply give casual consideration to what is being said, is to minimize what God’s Word is saying; thus to simply casually read God’s Word is almost meaningless, because in so doing one isn’t committed to really understanding what God is saying — if you will humbly read and study God’s Word with great sincerity, you will notice that God will speak to your heart! Again, one must truly desire to hear what God has to say… and as such carefully contemplate His word. Remember the words of Jesus, “Father, sanctify them in truth; Thy word is truth” (Jn 17:17); incidentally that word “sanctify” means “to make holy,” and “to set apart from the secular to the divine” (cf. Lev 20:26; 19:2; 1 Pet 1:15-16). Thus holiness in-volves loving God… clean living… honesty… and being compassionate to others. Now when God speaks to our hearts, we in tern verbally speak to Him (i.e., we don’t simply remain silent; in other words, we are reflecting upon and questioning every-thing He is saying to us (in short, true worship involves dialoging with God)… when you verbally address the issues that God is saying, He in turn will speak to your heart; divine thoughts will surface in your mind — remember, the Holy Spirit dwells in your heart. Beloved, if you have never studied God’s Word in this manner, “you owe it to yourself to do so for one hour a day for one full month;” in so doing you will see the validity of it, and from that point on your life will be drastically changed! When we humbly read and contemplate God’s Word with great sincerity, God discloses to our minds and hearts the significance of what His Word says; again, you must be dialoging with God when you study His Word — He wants to hear what you have to say! Please listen to what I am saying; without consciously speaking to God (i.e., praying to Him), one will not open his heart to hear what God has to say. Beloved, listening to God and praying to God and worshipping God (i.e., ascribing worth to Him) are closely related; obviously, these things must be done with a “humble heart.”
2. Prayer — Prayer is talking to God through praise, confession, and intercession… whereas God speaks to us through His word, we speak to God through prayer; keep in mind, “God’s Word is LIVING and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12); by the way, the word “living” is emphatic in Greek! The Bible is not simply a bunch of stagnant spiritual truths written down; it is alive & active and is ministered to our hearts by the Holy Spirit! (cf. Acts 16:14; 1 Th 1:5; 2:13; Jn 17:17; Eph 6:17; 1 Pet 1:23). The truth is, prayer plays a significant role in our understanding divine reality, because God is the one who reveals it to our hearts. When you read and study the Bible you need to speak to God while you are doing so; i.e., carry on conversation with Him (God wants to hear your heart) — don’t act as if He is simply some distant reality, so share your thoughts with Him, and ask Him questions if you have any, and thank Him for His grace and for ministering truth to your heart (obviously if you can’t dialogue with God, He is a very distant reality in your life). Remember, it is by prayer that we make contact with God, and God uses our prayer to communicate to us. Furthermore, since God is our life, to not communicate with Him is to not experience Him; that would be like not commun-icating with your spouse, and then expecting closeness and a wonderful relationship — such is simply not possible. Obviously with no communication there is a very poor relationship. Said Jesus, “Whatever you ask in My name (i.e., according to My will), it will be given to you” (cf. Jn 14:13-14; 1 Jn 5:14-15). Prayer is God’s way for us to obtain what we need from Him, and genuine prayer involves subjecting ourselves to God’s will — as Jesus said to His disciples: “Pray in this way — Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Mt 6:9-12). Biblical prayer is the pouring out of our soul to God (i.e., sharing our needs and desires and even our frustrations with Him – cf. 1 Sam 1:15; Ps 88:1-2; 130:1-2; 142:1-2; Lam 2:19; Mt 7:7-8; Phil 4:16; Heb 5:7). Though there is a time to ques-tion God… there is a time to submit to Him… life ultimately involves submitting to God’s will; keep in mind, prayer sometimes actually changes the will of God. Though prayer sometimes involves pleading with God and wrestling with all we are going through in life (that we might become more conformed to His will), we must be mindful of the fact that God knows our frustrations, our needs, our desires, and our emotions. So prayer involves both pleading with God and surrendering to God (cf. 6:39), being confident that He will do what is necessary and right.
To expand on this thing called prayer, consider the words of Jesus to His disciples the night before He went to the cross: “Whatever you ask in My name that I will do” (cf. Jn 14:13-14). The reason why believers down through the centuries have struggled with this thing called prayer, is that they frequently don’t get what they ask for (this was commonly experienced by believers in the Old Testament) — when we don’t get what we want, it can be a little disconcerting. Jesus went on to say, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you” (cf. Jn 15:7); keep in mind, when we abide in Christ (i.e., when we are in fellowship with Him) we ask for those things that correspond with His will; not things that are not His will… again said Jesus: “If you shall ask the Father for anything, He will give it to you in My name” (Jn 16:23)… so prayer is to be offered to the Father in the name of His Son; that is the most significant element of prayer. Remember, three times Jesus defined prayer to His disciples the night before He went to the cross (cf. Jn 14:13; 15:7; 16:23) — prayer in Jesus’ name is prayer that is seeking His will (cf. Jn 14:13; 1 Jn 5:14). Though all believers ask God for things over and over again in life… not every pe-tition is granted — such was the case with Job (cf. Job 38-41)… and with Jesus — three times He prayed that His cup of suffering would pass, but He nevertheless submitted to God’s will (cf. Mt 26:38-39, 42, 45)… likewise the apostle Paul three times asked God to deliver him from the thorn in the flesh that he was suffering from… yet God told him that His power would be best seen in his weakness (2 Cor 12:8-9); God gave him the problem to hinder his pride. Paul learned that petitions are sometimes denied in light of an eventual greater good — God’s power was displayed in Paul’s humility. Though there are several other passages that deal with the issue of “prayer,” many of those passages require a contextual understanding of what is stated, because they can be easily misinterpreted — such is common in much of the charismatic world; if people don’t get what they ask for, the charismatic blames it on “their lack of faith;” beloved, it is here where we as believers must understand that none of us have the capacity to “walk on water,” so to make that deduction is absolute foolishness… once again, such logic causes the believer to “focus on himself and his own desires” rather than God. Though it is understandable why some believers may make that conclusion, that is not a foundational element of prayer (read the following verses – Mt 6:10; 26:39; Lk 22:42; Acts 21:14; 1 Jn 5:14). The reality is this: we don’t simply pray for personal happiness in life (though we all do that at times); instead we are to pray for God’s will and the grace to understand & acept it. Therefore we must pour out our heart and soul to the Lord and ask Him for the grace to believe and walk in the light. Is that easy? No not at all, because sometimes it may actually involve a lot of struggl-ing. Remember, faith is a fight we must fight (1 Tim 6:12). Since faith is believing God, we must fight against our fallen nature in order to believe divine truth; that is simply the economy of God for us as His children (cf. Gal 5:16-17; 1 Tim 6:12). Though none of us will ever walk on water in this life, we can all learn to walk in the light by embracing divine truth. For me personally, “experiencing God’s peace” is of critical importance to me; yet there are numerous times when it is a distant reality in my life… though I often cry out to the Lord, oftentimes it is not instantly experienced… now though God doesn’t leave me in the dark for a long period of time, seldom is it just a minute or two. Remember, this life is all about growing in Christ, and striving to be the people God wants us to be. Though that is a challenge, because of the presence of indwelling sin (flesh), that is the life God has called us to… to insist that it be a pleasant little life does not at coincide with what Scripture teaches. Remember, we grow our faith when we are subjected to trials, not pleasant little experiences.
3. Worship — In worship we meet with God to praise Him and sing hymns and reflect upon His Word. It is here where we come into God’s presence collectively as the body of Christ and let Him speak to our hearts. So worship essentially is honoring and praising God for who He is (holy and perfect). The church by definition is a worshiping community, a holy priest-hood that offers spiritual sacrifices to God (cf. 1 Pet 2:5). Believers are to gather together in corporate worship. As Jesus said, “An hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in sprit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:23-24) — again, the emboldened words are emphatic in Greek. Remember what Jesus said, “the hour is now here when true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth;” prior to Christ’s coming the Jewish world was not worshiping the Father in spirit and truth. In addition to that, what Jesus was saying was this: “God is Spirit” (that’s who He is — He is an eternal invisible reality who is everywhere present (keep in mind, there is no eternal reality other than GOD). Our God is a loving, holy, invisible, eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent reality; i.e., He is all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere present, eternal and absolutely perfect in all His ways… thus those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. Now as worshippers, there must be no pretense to being a suprareli-gious person, because fallen creatures are who they are (innately sinful creatures); so don’t change the discourse, it is what it is. One must not think that when he goes through a series of rituals, God is then pleased with him — such does not at all define reality as it is stated in Scripture — yet that kind of bogus thinking does describe vari-ous elements of the Christian world. The reality is, God insists that “man approach Him with a broken & contrite heart” (cf. Ps 51:17; 34:18). The Lord who is the high and exalted One, who lives forever and whose name is Holy, said to His people: “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit, in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite; to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (cf. Is 57:15; 66:2 and Jer 44:10). Again, true worshipers worship the Father in spirit and truth. Keep in mind, God alone is to be worshipped and served (cf. Mt 4:10). To worship God one must worship Him in truth, because truth has to do with what God’s nature is; without truth we end up embracing untruth. Genuine sermons must be a true expo-sition of Scripture (i.e., of divine truth)… to let human thinking dictate reality can be very problematic, because it essentially leads people astray and distorts reality (sad-ly,that’s very common in Roman Catholicism and the liberal Christian world). The premiere goal of worship is that God’s people might live in accord with divine truth. Now the basic acts of worship essentially include the following eight elements —
A. Reading of Scripture
C. Singing psalms and hymns
D. Participating in the Lord’s Supper
E. Preaching God’s Word (i.e., divine doctrines)
F. Participating in an Offering
G. Solo and/or Choir Music
H. Fellowship and Sunday School Teaching
There are a few things that should be addressed regarding some of the issues listed above — much of what transpires in our worship services was taken from the ancient Jewish synagogue world. Following the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Babylonians in the 6th century BC, the Jewish world began worshiping in this thing called “The Synagogue” — essentially it was referred to as “The Jewish House of Assembly.” And it is the worship that took place in the Synagogue that strongly in-fluenced Christian worship and Church government (office of Elders). When Jesus Christ entered into our world the Synagogue was a well-established institution (it had existed for more than 500 years), and the Christian world simply employed the various elements in their own churches and worship services. The Greek words for “Church” (kuriakon and ekklesia) literally mean “House of the Lord” and “Public Assemblage;” so the Church is that place where believers gather to worship God and love & serve one another. To expand upon this, remember Jesus Himself was raised in the Synagogue of Nazareth where He had been brought up — that was His custom (Lk 4:16); and it was obviously a custom that He approved of. Remember, God in His sovereignty brought the Synagogue into existence, knowing full-well that He would be using it when He brought the Christian Church into existence. Early on in Jesus’ advent when He en- tered the Synagogue in His hometown: “He stood up to read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah that was handed to Him by the attendant”… Jesus essentially read the first two verses of Isaiah chapter 61 — that particular passage has always been acknow-ledged as a description of the ministry of the Messiah. When Jesus said, “Today the Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21), He was saying in the clearest possible way that He was the Messiah of Israel. Notice the revolutionary implications of His mission — He came to deal with the enormous problems that have afflicted mankind throughout history. As Scripture states (cf. Is 61:1-2; Lk 4:18-19), He came to preach the gospel to the poor… to proclaim liberty to the captives… to recover sight to the blind… to set free those who are oppressed & downtrodden… and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (i.e., the dawning of a new era for this world’s sighing multitudes)… the reality was, everyone in the Synagogue fixed their eyes upon Him, and He then said to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:20); so Jesus presented Himself as the answer to all of the ills that torment us… and the people of Nazareth fully understood what He was personally claiming; as such they were filled with rage and rose up and cast Him out of the city with the intent to throw Him down from the cliff (cf. Lk 4:28-29). Though Satan was obviously at work in Nazareth and did all he could to kill Jesus, God miraculously led Him safely out of the town; and as far as we know He never again returned to Nazareth. Remember, during the time that Christ taught in synagogues on the Sabbaths, it was already a well established institution; the reading of the law & the words of the prophets (cf. Acts 13:15), were followed by a sermon or teaching that explained & gave application to the passage that was read (cf. Mk 1:21; 6:2; Lk 4:15-16, 31; 6:6; 13:10; Jn 6:59; 18:20; Acts 13:14, 27, 42, 44; 15:21); so the ancient Jewish world has played a very significant role in the formulation of worship in the Christian world — prayer… singing psalms and hymns… reading Scripture… and preaching have always played a significant role in biblical worship. To the regret of many churches in the Christian world, many of the foregoing ele-ments do not define most worship services — do the math!
Remember the words of Hebrew: “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (cf. Heb 10:24-25; also Heb 3:13; Acts 2:42; Eph 4:1, 11-16). You’ll notice, love & good deeds need to be stirred up in the church, and that means believers need to gather together that they might love and serve each other as God has so willed (cf. Gal 5:13; 1 Cor 9:19; Eph 4:11-16; 5:21; Heb 13:1; 1 Pet 1:22; 1 Jn 3:11; 4:7, 8, 11; Jn 13:34; Rom 12:10; 1 Th 3:12; 4:9; Ps 40:9-10). Now regarding “Sunday School Classes,” such did not come into existence until 1780 in England. Initially, Sunday School Classes provided education to working children; today however, Sunday School has become the generic name for religious education conducted in churches. It was a British pub-lisher named, Robert Raikes, who established Sunday School Classes for the poor & the orphaned in Gloucester, England, in 1780; by 1800, there were more than 200,000 children enrolled in Sunday School Classes throughout England, and by 1850, that number had risen to 2,000,000 children. Incidentally, Sunday School Classes were the only schooling that most working class children ever received… these classes caught on very quickly both in England and here in the United States, and were very effective, and became a means for parents to socially elevate the family as a whole (these classes even became a means of education for adults). The reason they operated on Sunday, is that was the only day that the boys and girls working in the factories could attend… and using the Bible as their textbook, the children not only learned to read & write, the schools provided basic lessons in literacy and religious instruction — obviously, Christian Churches played a very important role in the western world back in the 18th and 19th centuries; remember, nearly all of the colleges & universities here in the US back in the 18th and 19th centuries (including all of the Ivy League Schools) were the product of Christian Churches — interestingly enough, all of the Ivy League Schools today “absolutely hate Christianity;” that is simply how Satan has operated here in the western world (keep in mind, America had ultimately become the center of the Christian world for over 150 yrs); though there was a day when “Christianity” actually ruled in our country, that is now a distant reality today; essentially most people in our country today are self-centered godless creatures — though 15-20% of our population may be genuine believers, 80-85% are not, and those numbers are far worse in Eng-land, Canada and Europe. Incidentally, the American Sunday School system was started by Samuel Slater in Pawtucket, Rhode Island in the 1790’s, and it has played a very significant role in the Christian world here ever since — the fellowship and religious education that exist in our Sunday School Classes play a very vital role in most church ministries. Now if you are interested in securing more knowledge on “The Church” as God ordained it, read the book that Joe Thorn wrote on it titled “The Heart of the Church” — in it he explains the essential foundational beliefs and behaviors of a church body committed to following Jesus and abiding by Scripture.
THE TRANSFORMATION OF OUR LIVES
As previously stated, it is critically important for believers to “see God for who He truly is,” and “see oneself for who he truly is” — every believer is a fallen sinful creature who has been saved by God’s grace alone. Now, though every believer is a child of God, we have not yet been fully transformed into the image of Christ — every believer is actually in the ‘process’ of being transformed into the image of Christ… not a single living believer has been fully transformed… our full transformation will not occur until we enter into the heavenly realm (cf. 2 Cor 3:18; Rom 8:23; 12:2; Rev 21:4-5). As Scripture states, “God created man in His image” (Gen 1:26), but since man violated God’s law shortly after he was created, he no longer possessed God’s image; thus he died both spiritually & physically… in so doing, “God sent His Son into the world to make us spiritually alive again & ultimately give us a glorified body” (cf. Rom 6:11; 8:10, 23; 1 Cor 15:52-53; ). The apostle Paul said, “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive” (cf. 1 Cor 15:2; Eph 2: 4-7; Col 2:13; 1 Pet 3:18). And now that we are alive in Christ, we are in the process of slowly being transformed into His image… keep in mind, our transformation is not something that happens instantaneously, nor is it something that happens completely independent of us; though we as believers are involved in the process, ultimately it is God who does the most work — we are like little children in God’s hand; as such, He just keeps on dis-ciplining us to accomplish His work in us. So in a sense, God is the one who essentially effectuates our transformation (cf. Phil 1:6; Jn 6:39-44; Rom 8:29-39; Eph 1:11-14; Heb 7:25). In addition to the forgoing, our transformation occurs in our lives as we walk by faith and walk according to the Spirit who guides us in life (cf. Jn 16:13; Rom 8:4; Gal 5:16); so even our walking by faith is influenced by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. As the apostle Paul said, “In view of your participation in the gospel, He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (i.e., our transformation will not be fully completed until Christ’s Second Coming – Phil 1:5-6). Meanwhile, “we are to work out the gift of salvation that God has placed in us” (Phil 2:12); i.e., we are to live it out by growing in our faith and walking in the light… and do so with the understanding that “God is at work in us, both to will and to do His good pleasure” (cf. Phil 2:13; also Heb 12:4-11). So our transformation is not simply the product of our own doing, but the work of God in our hearts as we walk in the light… again, though we play a role in our transformation, God obviously plays a much greater role. Whereas our Redemption is wholly the work of God, our Transformation involves our cooperating with God as we walk through life (i.e., as God keeps motivating us to embrace divine truth & obey it, we live by faith and walk in the Spirit; again, it is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who inspires us to walk in the light; He is not a silent presence in our lives). Furthermore, though all of us as human beings are fallen creatures, only unbelievers constantly live according to the flesh; though every human being has a fleshly inner-core, only believers fight against it! As Paul said to the Galatians: “Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24); i.e., when we were saved we determined we would no longer live according to our fallen nature; by the way, we renew this commitment over & over again in life (cf. Gal 2:20; 6:14; Rom 6:6-8; 6:11-12). Though unbelievers don’t see their inner-core (i.e., their flesh) as an absolute negative in their lives… believers see it as a diabolical negative that they must constantly war against. As Paul said, “The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh… these are in opposition to each other, so that we may not do the things that we please” (Gal 5:17). By the way, our flesh will always have a very strong presence in our lives until we enter into the eternal state, so “we must war against it until the day we die.” Beloved, this has always been God’s plan for us as His children, so don’t change the discourse.
Because of the presence of indwelling-sin in our lives (i.e., our flesh), we as believers all stumble in life (cf. Jam 3:2) — remember, God never removed our flesh from us when we were born again and placed our faith in Christ as our Savior; so fighting against this thing called “sin” is a major work for us as believers — keep in mind, fighting the war against sin was Jesus’ premiere work — He died for our sin; and He is asking us to die to it as well! And it is a work that will continue in our lives until we finally enter into the eternal state (i.e., heaven). Thus “we must war against our flesh until the day we die;” in-cidentally, that has always been God’s plan for us as His children. Remember, God died for our sins, and asks us to die to our sins (cf. Rom 6:12; 8:13; Gal 5:16-17); because God placed the Holy Spirit in our lives when we became new creatures in Christ, we now have the capacity to win the war against our flesh; though our flesh has a very strong presence in our lives, and frequently causes us to sin, nevertheless as believers we don’t completely capitulate and give our flesh full control over our lives; instead we continue to wage war against it. Now since sin is an integral part of our lives, “repentance” also plays a very significant role in our lives… due to the fact we sin over and over again in life, we must repent over and over again. Since our heart absolutely despises our flesh, we spend a lot of time wrestling with our flesh and expressing our sorrow to God when we do capitulate. Obviously as Christians we hate the fact that sin frequently rules in our lives, thus we are constantly fighting against it (which is extremely pleasing to the Lord). Though all of us naturally wish life was grand & glorious; such simply does not mesh with reality — when sin entered the world through Adam & Eve, God removed everything that was grand and glorious from this world; so such won’t be experienced until God takes us into heaven. Now because some churches preach a different doctrine, they don’t embrace reality as it is stated in Scripture; thus their congregants end up believing something that essentially is deceiving. Beloved, if God is going to “destroy this world” at the end of the age and cast the vast majority of it into the “Lake of fire,” we must give careful attention to what we believe (the message is — God does not tolerate sin; yet fallen man does not see sin as being that bad). The reality is, sin is a very significant problem to the entire created order; to make light of it on any level is absolute nonsense — “when a person suppresses the truth in unrighteousness, God gives him over to a depraved mind” (Rom 1:18, 28). So according to Scripture, if one lets his flesh dictate reality in his heart and mind, his future destiny is that he is going to experience God’s wrath; i.e., hell, which essentially is eternal separa-tion from God — though it is difficult to fully define, that’s what Scripture says (cf. Rom 1:18; 2:2; Mt 16:27; Eph 4:6; Rev 20:11-15). Though the foregoing is precisely what the Bible teaches, the vast majority of the Christian world today doesn’t even believe in hell (because they simply cannot reconcile a loving God putting people into hell — again, that’s how fallen flesh argues.
Regarding “Man’s Fallen Thinking”
It is covered in the next three paragraphs
For a fallen creature to define ultimate reality and give definition as to who God is with his fallen mind (which is actually devoid of any knowledge that transcends the created order), essentially is nonsensical. According to the 4th century BC Greek philosopher Plato, in his work “Apology,” he says the 5th century BC Greek philosopher Socrates describes his practice of philosophy as follows: “I am very conscious that I am not wise at all.” Said Plato, “It is because Socrates understood that he knew little or nothing that he was actually significantly wiser than the politicians, poets and craftspersons” — these groups essentially believed they possessed wisdom, which they did not, hence they were actually self-deceived. So Socrates is often viewed as the wisest of all the Athenians. The reality is, “Socrates undertook the mission to show those who think they themselves are wise (but are not), the error of their ways.” By the way, this thing called “reason” essentially is viewed as a conclusion that one arrives at by some logical deduction or some premise; thought that doesn’t make it factual, it tends to make it acceptable to the vast majority of people in our world. Now to the regret of many countries in our world, “reason” is often successfully suppressed in favor of some political entity (incidentally, that strongly defines the diabolical left here in America). The authors of the book, “The Enigma of Reason,” Hugo Mercier & Dan Sperber (published by Harvard University Press), essentially stated the following: “Reasoning doesn’t necessarily drive people to a better knowledge, because if people start out with the wrong intuitive idea, they are almost always stuck on their initial wrong idea.” Remember, leftist ideologues do not believe that God is the Supreme Reality, hence they chose to believe in evolution vs. creation (in spite of the fact that the scientific world has now proven that evolution is bogus nonsense; i.e., that evolution does not at all mesh with reality — it should be noted, only a few nonsensical minds in the non-thinking left still believe in it; though science has now disproved it!). So with the foregoing in mind, Mercier and Sperber state that “reasoning fails because it has a so-called myside bias;” i.e., that people who mostly reason find arguments that support what they were already thinking — given this bias, it is not surprising that people typically get stuck on their initial idea. The truth is, nearly everyone takes the existence of the myside bias for granted. So what is critical for fallen man is that he focus on the fullness of an issue (i.e., both sides of an issue), not just that which coincides with his own opinion; but very few people choose to go down that road (hence, they are very gullible). As Hugo Merciere and Dan Sperbert state in an article titled “Arguments for an Argumentative Theory” (published by Cambridge University Press in England, 2011), “One of the major problems with the so-called geniuses of our world, is that skilled arguers are not after the truth, but after arguments supporting their views” (i.e., their bias). So in spite of the fact that fallen man thinks his temporal thinking is sufficient to define ultimate reality, he actually ignores many of the dynamic realities of this world, and pretty much everything that has transpired in this temporal world down through the ages — in so doing, he makes the assumption that all that has transpired in this world is completely irrelevant with regard to ultimate reality and who God is; the truth is, he not only doesn’t know what has transpired in our world, he doesn’t know why it tran-spired.
Beloved, it’s important for man to remember that God is an active voice in our world, that He is the one who effectuates all of the changes that take place in our world — the truth is, He has destroyed numerous countries down through the ages because of their wickedness (be it Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria, Jerusalem & numerous other countries), and then there is the incredible incident that occurred about 5,000 years ago, “Noah and the worldwide flood” that God used to destroy the entire world (Gen 5-8). As crazy as it may sound, many believers don’t even believe in the flood, because it simply doesn’t mesh with their think-ing; the reality is, they can’t conceive of it in part because some godless diabolical minds in our world refuse to even admit that it did happen (therefore, many professing believers actually listen to what fallen man says rather than what God says — incidentally, many in the scientific world have evidenced this thing called a “world wide flood;” the issue is this: if one won’t consider the fullness of all the evidence, he won’t believe it (again, it’s his innate myside bias that rules in his thinking — keep in mind, when numerous people embrace a diabolical negative, they strongly influence the masses; as such they cause them to keep on embracing untruth). Remember, the ancient Roman world years ago believed that the earth was “flat” (not round), thus the Church of Rome embraced such thinking; that just shows us how influential fallen human thinking is in the minds and hearts of men (be they believers or unbelievers). Beloved, are you listening? So here’s fallen man wrongly judging God by simply defining reality according to fallen fleshly thinking. Though reality oftentimes is not easily understood, yet to arrogantly deny it without evaluating the sum-total of all that it contains is about as juvenile as one can be (it would be one thing to say “I don’t know,” but quite another to say “I don’t believe that,” without a nickels worth of knowledge). Incidentally, the foregoing is essentially the norm for fallen man; he often passes judgment on things with very little knowledge; to his discredit, he never stops to give careful consideration to all the pros and cons that exist on a subject (again, that is very common in this fallen world; man simply lets some innate bias or popular thought rule in his mind). The truth is, the depth of man’s fallen thinking is not even an inch deep; it simply jumps to conclusions and em-braces fallen human thinking; the fact is, the sum-total of what he believes is extremely limited. Remember, God is the source of all things & all knowledge; He is the one who defines reality. So it is the arrogant thinking of fallen man that is the problem; he makes judgments that are not only completely lacking in wisdom (because he refuses to humbly consider the fullness of God’s divine revelation), he makes judgments that are completely lacking in true knowledge. As Scripture states, “He suppresses the truth in unrighteous-ness” (Rom 1:18) that he might live life according to his own will, his own desires, and his own fallen thinking; in so doing he simply insists on being an autonomous creature. The reality is, fallen man is a very self-centered creature with a level of thinking that is hardly even an inch deep. Beloved, for one to change the discourse (i.e., change reality) because it doesn’t mesh with his fallen thinking is absolute foolishness, because he cannot justify what he thinks. The truth is, fallen thinking completely ignores reality as God defines it in His Word, in spite of the fact that many people even in the scientific world have now actually affirmed much of what Scripture teaches, including the first and second laws of thermodynamics (which, incidentally, are foundational to the entire created order); so numerous things that have transpired in our world down through the ages (as Scripture states) have even been confirmed by the scientific world; nevertheless, many bogus Christians refuse to believe some of what has transpired, because it doesn’t mesh with fallen human logic (regrettably, that is not at all uncommon). By the way, if you would like to read some of what science has now embraced, let me encourage you to read a study I did titled, “True Unequivocal Truth” — you can access it by going online to my website: www.thetransformedsoul.com — simply go on the “Additional Studies Link” at the top of the Homepage, and then click on the “Spiritual Life Studies.”
Now with the foregoing in mind, as Christians we must be very cognizant of exactly what it is we are truly believing — are we believing divine truth as it is stated in Scripture, or are we believing fallen human thinking? The question is, how do you know that what you are believing is true and not a lie? Remember, God only gives assurance of divine truth to those who humble themselves before Him; without possessing a humble heart, man will simply satisfy himself with his own fleshly thinking. Keep in mind, if God’s revelation runs contrary to what a person believes, he is believing that which is not true (i.e., untruth); again, the reason he is doing so is that he has not humbled himself before the Lord; keep in mind, God only gives grace and wisdom to the humble (cf. Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5). Beloved, genuine reality is not understood by those with an arrogant heart, because GOD is the one who communicates it to man’s heart and mind; obviously many in the Christian world are not humble creatures; thus they are still far too self-centered. By the way, regarding this thing called “knowledge” and “wisdom” (i.e., true knowledge and true wisdom) — the truth is, man not only has very little knowledge, he is almost completely lacking in wisdom. Keep in mind, in the highest sense, wisdom is an attribute of God that is related to divine knowledge (cf. Ps 104:24; Rom 11:33; 1 Cor 1:24; Rev 7:12). Ultimately, real wisdom is the fear of God, that begins with God (cf. Prov 1:7; Job 28:28), and is a divine gift (cf. Acts 6:10; 1 Cor 2:6; 12:8; Eph 1:17; Col 1:9; 3:16; Jam 1:5; 3:15-17). Though some of the topics are knowledge, the world, justice, virtue, and family, the greatest element is “faith” (cf. Prov 1:7). Said the Lord to the prophet Isaiah, “I will destroy the wisdom of all who claim to be wise… and confuse those who think they know so much” (Is 29:13-14). “I make liars of false prophets… and those who claim to be wise I refute and show that their wisdom is foolishness” (Is 44:25). Said Solomon, the wisest man whoever lived (cf. 1 Kg 3:12), “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (cf. Prov 14:12). Said the Lord to Jeremiah, “The wise men will be put to shame, because they have rejected the word of the Lord” (Jer 8:9). Said the apostle Paul to the Corinthians, “God chose the foolish things of this world (i.e., foolish according to fallen man) to put the wise to shame” (1 Cor 1:27)… He went on to say, “The wisdom of this world is foolishness to God” (1 Cor 3:19)… ”Profes-sing themselves to be wise, they became fools… they exchanged the truth of God for a lie; thus they worshipped the creature rather than the Creator” (cf. Rom 1:22, 25). “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit” (cf. Col 2:8). Obviously, there is both truth and untruth in this world; to embrace truth is to believe God, and to embrace untruth is to not believe God — each one shall be dealt with accordingly.
With the foregoing in mind, let’s return to the topic of the transformation of our lives — the truth is, God loves us so much that He died for us, in spite of the fact that we are fallen creatures (i.e., children of the devil – Jn 8:42-47). Beloved, to change those constructs is to redefine reality, and that’s a dead end street. The reality is, God knows our frame and is mindful that we are but dust (Ps 103:14), and He sympathizes with our weaknesses (which are very significant – Heb 4:15); yet many believers are lacking in humility & pretend to be wonderful creatures, in spite of the fact that that does not at all define them. Beloved, if there’s anything I wish I did not possess it is my sinful nature (i.e., my flesh). The truth is, I would rather be a physically crippled man who did not have a sin nature, then a physic-ally healthy man who does possess one; but since there’s nothing I can do to change the stature of who I really am, I must fight against my flesh (as God as so decreed) and do everything I can to walk in the light. Incidentally, that is precisely how many of God’s prophets looked at life — many of them wished they had never been born! Beloved, that is how painful our sinful inner-core can be! Contrary to what any of you might think, believing God (that’s faith) and fighting the good fight, and walking in obedience to Him is the premiere work God has so allocated to us as His children. By the way, it is only the young at heart who have not yet faced ultimate reality; but of this they can be sure, “their day is coming.” Now for those of you who have changed the discourse, sooner or later you are going to regret it, because what you are now believing is not true. The truth is, life is like a highway that has a destination; sooner or later, you are going to arrive at that destination, and if you find yourself on the wrong highway, ultimately you are going to discover that things aren’t what you thought they were, that what you were thinking did not correspond with divine truth, and that is going to be a very disconcerting moment for you. Now, if you are a believer (and I’m assuming you are), that doesn’t mean you’re theology of thought is accurate — and it doesn’t mean God is ultimately going to turn away from you and reject you (He never does that with His born-again children)… it simply means your thinking had an adverse affect upon your spiritual growth and trans- formation (obviously, this is not uncommon in the Christian world, but it doesn’t need to exist in your life). Again, if there is anything as a believer you should want to believe, it is “divine truth;” and that’s where God’s Word enters the picture — is divine truth simple? No it is not, because the enemy of God is doing every he can to keep us in the dark (cf. Eph 6:10-18; 1 Pet 5:7-10); as the apostle Paul stated in his letter to the Ephesians, “Stand firm, having girded your loins with truth!” (6:14). And due to the fact we are fallen creatures (saved, yes, but fallen nonetheless) it is easy for us to think wrong thoughts. As belie-vers, we must all embrace divine truth as God has stated it in His Word, and learn to fight the good fight of faith; that’s the premiere call for believers (cf. 1 Tim 6:12; Heb 11:6). Though we can all argue to the contrary, divine truth is what it is, and that is what we must embrace. Again, nothing is true because I say it is true, it is true because GOD says it is true! Keep in mind, Christ died for grossly sinful creatures, and since He never removed their sinful inner-core from them (i.e., their flesh from them), they cannot claim to be won-derful creatures! Incidentally, such thinking demonstrates a serious lack of humility. The reality is, living with our fallenness is no joy-ride, but it does serve a very significant purpose in our lives; again, though Christ died for our sins, He now asks us to die to our sins, and wage war against them. The problem many believing Christians is that they have been taught that the Christian life is a happy life, with nothing but a bunch of posi-tives in life (if indeed they are men and women of great faith)— but that does not at all coincide with what Scripture teaches. Remember, “sin” in the ancient eternal world is the reason why God created man… and “sin” is the reason why Christ died on the cross for us… and “sin” is ultimately going to be removed from the entire universe; but until that occurs we must “war against sin,” and that is the war of wars (cf. Gal 5:6-17); yet, one day God is going to put us in the heavenly realm, where “sin” no longer exists. If you insist on making your earthly life a little joy-ride, you are in for an ugly awakening — imagine spending fifty years of your life going down the wrong road, and then seeing reality for what it really is; that would be very disconcerting, because you simply wasted the vast majority of your life; incidentally, you will end up paying the price for doing so; “though you will enter into the eternal state (if indeed you are a believer), you will suffer loss and not be rewarded” (1 Cor 3:12-15); in addition to that, “you will have no confidence when Christ appears, thus you will shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (cf. 1 Jn 2:28). Beloved, those are extremely poignant realities that everyone needs to be aware of; God doesn’t play games, so please take your faith serious, and don’t treat it lightly.
When we realize that God loves us unconditionally with an everlasting love (Ps 136:1-26), as undeserving as we are, we then experience a level of grace that we never dreamed was possible — take the time to carefully contemplate what that entire statement says; don’t just pass it off with remedial thinking. Because we often judge things with our fallen human thinking (remember, our flesh always gives its input), we oftentimes have a very difficult time thinking that God loves us when we sin… so we change the discourse and try to see ourselves in better light; yet such thinking actually makes God less loving in our minds than He really is. Beloved, I’m not a glorious creature (no where close to it), nevertheless God loves me with all His heart! (yes, that’s difficult for me to fathom, but that defines reality). Now if we don’t believe God loves us unconditionally, we are not seeing God for who He really is. It is when we question God’s love and grace (i.e., when we doubt His love for some reason), that He sometimes lets darkness rule in our soul, which ultimately leads us to “repent in dust and ashes” — so God often uses spiritual negatives to bring us back into the light. Again, since our flesh has such a profound presence in our lives, there may be times when we question divine truth (remember, as stated above, our flesh always expresses itself in life); in so doing, God sometimes lets our flesh rule in our hearts for awhile, which causes us to almost go bonkers with regard to our faith — just when we were feeling a little good about our faith, sometimes we ex-perience a spiritual shipwreck and start questioning what our life is all about… again, just when everything seemed to be going great, the bottom falls out. Though we start praying hard and cry out to God, things don’t necessarily change quickly, yet after a reasonably short period of time, God once again wraps His arms around us. So, what is it that we learn? Well, we learn that outside of Christ we don’t have much to brag about… so God lets us see ourselves as we really are, and not let us walk through life thinking something to the contrary. Remember, nothing happens in our lives that God doesn’t first approve of — so whether He is the cause of some difficulty, or simply lets Satan subject us to it, noth-ing happens in our lives that isn’t first approved of by God — remember the words of Paul, “God causes all things to work together for our good” (Rom 8:28), in spite of the fact that some things can be very distressing. He knows our frame and is mindful that we are but dust (our problem is, we don’t understand the fullness of our fallenness. Thus we must take every step possible to believe God… to believe His love for us… and to believe His Word (i.e. divine truth).
The solution for sin is the same in both the Old Testament & the New Testament — said the psalmist David, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Ps 55:22). Conversely, Peter said, “Cast all of your anxiety upon the Lord, because He cares for you” (1 Pet 5:7). The amazing truths of these two verses are: God will sustain us… He will never let us fall… and He cares for us. God has promised to “work all things together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28) — now in spite of the fact that He may frustrate us at times and cause us to doubt Him, He will never stop working for our good and His glory. Furthermore, God has promised “He will allow no trial to be greater then what we can bear” (1 Cor 10:13); though that may be questionable at times, “God will not let us completely collapse!” (Ps 55:22). Can you picture that truth? Though your parents may have spanked you at times when you did something wrong, never did they throw you off a cliff or into the ocean, or shoot you and hit you with an ax — that is not something loving parents do — you get the picture?… God LOVES you and is doing a transforming work in your life! Remember what God said to His people: “Do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord; those whom He loves He disciplines. God deals with us as with sons; what son is there whom his father doesn’t discipline?” (cf. Heb.12:5-7; Job 5:17). The truth is, God knows exactly what it is He is subjecting us to in life, and the significance of it (it is never sheer happenstance!); there is nothing that transpires in our lives that God doesn’t ultimately use to transform our lives. Now if you make God out to be someone who isn’t in full command of everything that takes place in your life (and this world), then you will struggle; but that doesn’t define who God is. The truth is, God is far bigger than all our worries, problems, and frustrations, so we must not let Satan deceive us into thinking something to the contrary — beloved, if Christ died for you, how can you think “your problems” are too much for Him? The truth is, none of our sins are so heavy that God cannot lift them from us and throw them into the deepest sea (cf. Ps 103:11-12). Even though we cannot necessarily change how we “feel” about things (because of our flesh), we can change how we “think” about them… and this is what God wants us to do. Did you carefully listen to what was just said? The apostle Paul said, “Think on those things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute” (Phil 4:8); i.e., “dwell on those things.” He also said, “We are transformed by the renewing of our mind” (Rom 12:2)… “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col 3:2). Thus, every day we should study God’s Word… meditate upon His Word… and pray for the grace to let divine truth guide us in life. Beloved, I am not say-ing that this is easy, because our flesh has a very strong presence in our lives; neverthe-less, this is the road we need to travel down — you must humbly dwell on divine truth, and let God minister it to your heart.
Now because we are “emotional creatures” (that’s the way God made us) several things interest us and fascinate us — who and what we like and love… what angers us and frus-trates us and pleases us… what moves us and what doesn’t move us — all of these things define us and constitute who we are. As Matthew Schlimm, an Old Testament professor at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary states, “The feelings we have stem from the judgments we make about the world around us… at their core, emotions typic-ally involve things that matter deeply to us and things we cannot fully control.” Whereas Positive assessments result in happiness, joy, excitement & hope… Negative assessments result in guilt, sadness, anger, worry, anxiety & fear. Remember, God made us “emotional beings,” yet our fallenness has had a very negative affect upon our feelings — we not only feel love, joy & happiness, we feel guilt, anger, disappointment & fear… so sometimes our emotions are pleasant and sometimes they are not pleasant; though some of our emotions are grounded in truth, some of them are grounded in untruth; for instance, if we falsely believe that God is not in control of the circumstances of our lives, we may experience emotions of fear or despair or anger based on that false belief… remember, emotions are powerful and significant to those experiencing them. Obviously, the way to manage our emotions is to grow in our walk with God, knowing that “we are transformed by the re-newing of our minds” (Rom 12:1-2). It is also important to remember that emotions are the product of our thinking, and “as one thinks so is he” (Prv 23:7). As believers, we can’t just let fleshly thinking rule in our minds; we must constantly wrestle with fleshly thinking and let the God of peace consciously rule in our hearts and minds — and when we do let Him rule, we will experience His peace (Phil 4:6-9). The reality is, we need to meditate on divine truth every day so that God’s Word can impact our thinking; if we don’t, our flesh will control much of our thinking (that is simply how our flesh works). Incidentally, the psalms are an excellent example of managing emotions and bringing them to God — numerous psalms are filled with raw emotion, but the emotion is poured out to God in an attempt to seek His truth, righteousness, forgiveness and deliverance; read the follow-ing passages (cf. Ps 32:3; 38:1ff; 51:1ff; 61:1ff; 64:1ff; 70:1ff; 73:1ff; 86:1ff; 88:1ff; 102:1ff; Num 14:1ff; Ezra 3: 13; Jn 11:35).
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF FAITH
Regarding this thing called “Faith,” it is actually a difficult construct for all believers… though many of us try to believe everything that Scripture teaches, oftentimes we have a problem doing so because of the negatives we are experiencing in life — the reality is, it is the negatives of life that we have a hard time accepting; for example, we may ex-perience a few negatives on any given day and do our best to deal with them, but when several other negatives come our way, that’s when most believers cease to fight the good fight; and therein is the rub — thus we seem to be fine to a degree, but when things become too much for us to handle, that’s when we cave in to the problem. Beloved, this is simply what it means to be human — our humanness often grabs hold of our heart, and causes us to become distraught and stumble (Jam 3:2). Like all believers, I hate stumbling, but stumble I do; such is simply the presence of indwelling sin (remember, none of us as believers walk on water; we are all fallen sinful creatures — saved yes, but fallen nonetheless). Though faith means to “believe and trust in the body of knowledge that God has given to us in His Word,” most believers are not that knowledgeable about much of what Scripture tea-ches… thus they actually embrace untruth at times. One of the most respected theologians in the evangelical world is “J. I. Packer” — Packer was strongly influenced by C. S. Lewis at Oxford University in England, and is now a professor at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, where my wife and I lived and served back in the 1990’s. Packer is best known for his book, “Knowing God,” which was one of the most popular books in the Christian world in the 20th century. In Elwell’s “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology,” Packer contributed by giving definition to this thing called “Faith”… in it he identifies three aspects of faith that we should all give careful consideration to; they are as follows:
1. Faith in God involves right belief about God, and having confidence in God. The epistles depict faith as knowing, believing, and obeying the truth (cf. 2 Th 2:13; Titus 1:1; 1 Pet 1:22). In addition to that, the authors of Scripture regarded “orthodoxy” (i.e., truth that is governed by the Holy Spirit) as faith’s fundamental ingredient (cf. Gal 1:8-9) — so we must embrace divine truth as Scripture defines it. Remember, man’s failure to trust God was the essence of man’s first sin (cf. Gen 3:1-7).
2. Faith rests on Divine Testimony; the Bible views faith’s convictions as certainties, and equates them with knowledge (cf. 1 Jn 3:2; 5:18-20). Remember, God is true (cf. Jn 3:33), so to reject His Word is to make God a liar (cf. 1 Jn 5:10; Titus 1:2). Keep in mind, all Scripture is “God breathed,” and is the work of the Holy Spirit — that’s why it is called “God’s Word” (cf. 2 Tim 3:16-17; Rom 15:4; 2 Pet 1:20-21). God inspires trust in Himself through His Word (cf. Ps 119:86, 137-144). The reason people reject divine truth is because it doesn’t mesh with their fleshly thinking.
3. Faith is a supernatural divine gift; fallen man cannot discern divine truth or com-prehend it (cf. Jn 3:3; 1 Cor 2:14), or trust in it without his heart being divinely enlightened (cf. 2 Cor 4:6; Jn 6:44-45; 1 Jn 2:20, 27). It is the Holy Spirit who convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (cf. Jn 16:8-11), so God is the author of all saving faith (cf. Eph 2:8; Phil 1:29). By the way, to fear God is to believe Him with a reverential awe. As the psalmist said: “Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness continues throughout all generations” (Ps 119:89-90). As the apostle Paul stated, “The righteous will live by faith” (cf. Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38; 1 Pet 3:12); i.e., believers will live by divine truth as it is expressed in Scripture. Incidentally, if you failed to reflect upon the various verses listed, in all probability the foregoing may not be that signi-ficant to you (i.e., it is unlikely there would be any change in your thinking, because faith requires deep conviction; not simply shallow thinking).
The reality is, all men believe something — the question is, What do they believe? and Why do they believe it? How do they justify their beliefs? Is it simply a matter of pleas-ing one’s thinking? i.e., believing what one wants to believe? By the way, that’s the norm for most people in the Christian community in the Western World — all that matters to them is being at peace with their own thinking and enjoying the moment… everything else essentially is irrelevant; thus they would respond to those who embrace the totality of what Scripture teaches with words like this: “You are making mountains out of mole-hills.” What’s important to remember is the fact that nearly all of Christ’s disciples were persecuted & executed for their faith; so this thing called “faith” was not just a matter of their own opinion… the conviction that rested in their souls was “absolute,” to the extent that they would embrace divine truth at all costs, even though they would probably suffer crucifixion as a result; thus believing in the divine truth of Scripture was completely contrary to the thinking of fallen man. Remember, “the cross became the means whereby Jesus became the atoning sacrifice for the sins of all mankind” — obviously, it was no remedial issue. Said Jesus to His disciples the night before He went to the cross, “If they persecute Me, they will also persecute you” (Jn 15:20). James, the blood-brother of Jesus, together with many anonymous martyrs experienced the truth of that statement (cf. Acts 4:3; 5:17-42; 8:1; 12:1; Rev 2:3, 9, 10, 13, 19; 3:8-10; 6:9; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24; 20:4). Remember, all of Christ’s disciples (with the exception of John) were crucified & executed for their faith — perhaps we need to ask the question, “Why was that? Why did God so will that?” (give careful consideration to those questions). The reality is, Christ’s disciples were absolutely con-vinced of the integrity of divine truth… this wasn’t some little human opinion that they just happened to like; it was God’s divine truth to man! The reality is, Christ’s disciples sent out this message to the entire world: “Jesus Christ is GOD, very God!!! and He has died for our sins!!! Because He is God, He conquered sin and rose from the dead!!! If you will believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you shall be saved… and you shall dwell in eternity with Him forever!!! Beloved, repent and experience God’s forgiveness, and you shall experience eternal life with Him in heaven!!!” Now because Christ’s disciples were absolutely certain that the resurrected Christ was indeed who He said He was, they fully believed in Him to the point that they would even be executed for Him! Remember, prior to His resurrection, only a couple of His disciples really believed in Him (in part, because they really didn’t know what to believe)… keep in mind, after Christ was raised from the dead He revealed Himself to them, and shared divine truth with them, and it was at that point that they fully believed in Him! Imagine the impact the “resurrection” had on His disciples — it must have been so overwhelming to them, they were completely stunned… yet after spending a few weeks with Him, nothing was then going to change their mind regarding the deity of Christ and His love for them; they would now believe in Him even if they were executed for doing so!!! By subjecting themselves to execution, Christ’s disciples simply showed the world how absolutely certain they were of the good news of Jesus Christ. Incidentally, no other religious element in the entire world is regarded as malignant and deserving of execution… only Christ’s disciples were persecuted for their faith (again, Satan was doing everything he could to destroy the gospel of Christ). By the way, how convincing would the disciples testimony have been in the ancient world if they had not been persecuted for their faith? How would people have responded to the message were it not for the fact that many of its leaders and followers were executed? Obviously, people must have been stunned to see numerous people embrace divine truth, even though it cost them their lives; such would have at least led them to seriously con- template the message.
Since Jesus Christ proved to His disciples who He was through the resurrection, nothing was now going to stop them from proclaiming the gospel of Christ to the entire world. Remember the words of Thomas, one of the twelve disciples, “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” — a few days later Jesus appeared to His disciples, and said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing”… after touching Jesus, Thomas responded: “My Lord and My God!” And Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see Me, and yet believed” (cf. Jn 20:24-29). Remember, thousands of people died for their faith early on in the Christian world. Regarding the advent of Christ into the world 2,000 years ago, when He came into this world, He performed numerous miracles before the Jewish peo-ple to substantiate who He was (as Scripture states, the Jewish world has always insisted on “signs” — cf. 1 Cor 1:22; 2 Cor 12:12; Mt 12:38; Jn 2:18; 6:14, 30); though Jesus had made it very clear to the nation of Israel that He indeed was the “MESSIAH,” they did not believe in Him! Keep in mind, the gospel and divine truth were all initiated in the Jewish world (not the Gentile world), yet the Jewish world did not accept Him — instead they crucified Him! Incidentally, the Gentile world did not become a significant part of the Christian world until about 25 years after Christ’s resurrection; so the Christian church in the early years was basically Jewish in its origin… remember, all of Christ’s disciples were Jews… so believing Jews were the ones who strongly influenced the development of the Christian Church, Christian Worship, the importance of Scripture, and Fellowship in the Church.
Now because sin is such a profound issue in the minds of believers (not unbelievers), this things called repentance must play a vital role in their lives, and without true genuine faith one will not repent in dust and ashes (cf. Job 42:6). Remember the words of the apostle John, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9); i.e., if we say the same thing about our sin that God says about it, He will forgive us (literally that is what it means to “confess”). Without truly believing what John said, one will question God’s forgiveness, because he may not “feel forgiven” — since our feelings play such a vital role in our lives, we often defer to them; obviously without a theological understanding of divine truth, we may be inclined to question it… though Scripture may make a claim (that we are forgiven if we genuinely confess our sin to the Lord), if we don’t feel forgiven we may question it. It is this con-struct of thought that controls so much of what many Christians believe; thus their soul is often troubled. Is believing a difficult construct? Absolutely, because it runs counter to what Satan, the world, and our flesh thinks. Furthermore, because we stumble often in life (due to the fact that sin has such a dominant presence in our lives), at times we may think that something is seriously lacking in our hearts and faith — because sin can be so overwhelming to us, we may have a tendency to lose confidence in our faith, and in the object of our faith. Obviously without understanding the essence of divine faith as well as the presence of indwelling sin in our lives (i.e., our flesh), we are frequently going to find ourselves somewhere out in the forest (spiritually speaking); and try though as we may, we may feel confined to the forest. It should be obvious to every believer — God wants us to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim 6:12), and stop making light of if, as if it is simply some simplistic little construct that God has gifted us with. Remember, it was one thing to believe in Jesus as a child (as the children’s song goes: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so; little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong; yes Jesus loves me… for the Bible tells me so!”). Though our childhood faith was a very shallow faith when we were young, nevertheless it was a genuine faith. But now that we are older, God has called us to a much deeper faith; in so doing, we must learn to wrestle through the integrity of divine truth as it is stated in Scripture, and not simply treat it as an elementary construct of thought. Beloved, are you not aware of the fact that God is now letting the devil and the spiritual forces of darkness & wickedness attack your faith? As the apostle Paul stated, “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood (i.e., against a bunch of godless philosophers & crafty priests), but against the rulers & powers and the world forces of this darkness and wickedness (i.e., against demonic forces & the fallen angelic world” — cf. Eph 6:10-14 and 2 Cor 10:3-5); though our flesh is an antagonist in our lives (Gal 5:17), Satan and his minions also play a very strong role in our caving into fallen thinking (1 Pet 5:7-9). As Paul stated, “We are no longer to be children, tossed about by various waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine and the deceitfulness of fallen thinking” (Eph 4:14).
The reality is, “our faith is being tested” — so what does it mean to be “tested”? The most common OT word is the Hebrew word “tsaraph,” which is translated “to refine, try, smelt and test.” The psalmist describes the experience of Israel in this way: “Thou hast tried us, O God; Thou hast refined us as silver is refined… Thou didst lay an oppressive burden upon our loins. Thou didst make men ride over our heads… we went through fire and through water; yet Thou didst bring us out into a place of abundance” (cf. Ps 66:10-12); the word translated refined is tsaraph in Hebrew… and the word translated tried is bachan in Hebrew. The message is this: God had brought the nation of Israel through purifying trials (that is God’s purpose for trials in the lives of His people; ultimately, they purify us and have a positive effect upon our lives & faith). In the Old Testament, God’s judgment is also described as a process of refining (cf. Is 1:25). Thus the believer can take comfort in the word of God which itself has been tried and purified (cf. Ps 119:14. 103, 111; Jer 15:16; Ezek 3:3). And then there is the Hebrew word “nasah” which was used by Moses in the book of Deuteronomy when he said, “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (cf. Deut 8:2). He then went on to say, “If a prophet arises among you… you shall listen to his words, for the Lord your God is testing you to see if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut 13:1, 3). When we get into the New Testament we find the testing of God equally pronounced — James (the brother of Jesus) employed the Greek word “dokimion” which is translated “tested, tried & tempted” — Said James, the brother of Jesus, “Consider all trials joy when you encounter them, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance or perseverance” (cf. Jam 1:2-3; also read Heb 12:1); as the great industrialist Charles Kettering said, “Problems are the price of progress,” so even the unbelieving world understands the significance of problems in our lives; they toughen us and makes us stronger creatures. With that in mind, “tests” have a positive affect upon our faith. In addition to the foregoing, Peter said, “Our faith is tested that we might be found praiseworthy at the coming of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:7). And then there is the Greek word “peirazo” which is also used several times — Peter went on to say, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing” (1 Pet 4:12). Remember, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up his son Isaac” (cf. Heb 11:17). The Lord said to the church in Smyrna, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer… the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested… be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (cf. Rev 2:10). Beloved, with the foregoing in mind, it ought to be pretty clear to every believer, God subjects us to trials and tribulation and temptation and tests that we might grow in our faith, and not simply have a very remedial faith… the reality is, only difficulties and suffering will grow our faith (though that is a difficult construct for most Christians to believe, that defines real-ity. God wants us “to be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might, and put on the full armor of God, that we might be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Eph 6:10-13) — we are to “stand firm, having girded our loins with truth… taking up the shield of faith with which we will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one” (Eph 6:14-16) — incidentally, that word “extinguish” is emphatic in Greek. Beloved, if you are going to treat your faith lightly as an adult, you are really going to struggle with your faith — we are to “fight the good fight of faith,” knowing that this is a fight that will have a positive effect upon our faith. Though our soul may be overwhelmed at times, when we go before the Lord with a passionate heart, He will remove the anxiety and the turmoil from our soul and give us His peace (cf. Phil 4:6-7)… in so doing, we must share our heart with God & all that we are experiencing, and embrace Him as the Lord of our lives — remember, when we believe in Him, we will please Him (cf. Heb 11:6 and 4:15-16). As Peter said, “Long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet 2:2); without doing so, dark thinking will have a very adverse effect upon our lives and our faith — keep in mind, the emboldened words in that verse are emphatic in Greek. Thus, as believers we must humbly and prayerfully contemplate divine truth, and not simply give remedial consideration to it.
Now when we genuinely confess our sins (i.e., repent), we experience God’s forgiveness, which means that “one has met the demands of God’s outraged holiness” — remember, God doesn’t take sin lightly, yet He does forgive it when there is genuine repentance (i.e., when one approaches God with a broken and contrite heart – cf. Ps 51:17). Incidentally, the word “contrite” means to be humble and repent having been crushed by a sense of guilt; the basic meaning of the OT Hebrew word dakah means “to be crushed or beaten to pieces” (cf. Ps 38:8; 44:19; 51:8; 143:3; Is 53:5). Keep in mind, God for Christ’s sake forgives when we confess our sins with a contrite heart (Eph 4:32); by the way, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek. The most common word for “forgiveness” in the NT is the word “aphesis;” it is used more than fifty times in the NT — literally it means “to let go” or “to send away” — said Jesus when He partook of the Lord’s Supper with His disciples the night before He went to the cross: “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (cf. Matt 26:28); so forgiveness is a correlative of the blood of Christ that was shed for us… without the shedding of blood there would be no forgiveness of sins (Heb 9:22). So forgiveness is not simply something God does (like we as humans do — if someone wrongs us, we forgive them when they tell us they are sorry for doing what they did), but God operates different then that — sin is far more grievous to God than it is to us as human beings… God actually pays the entire price for our sin by dying on the cross for our sins… obviously, our sins are far more grievous then we think — “they are not simply little wrongs that have been done;” they are highly offen-sive to God, and are actions that completely violate Him. It is because He loves us with an incredible love, that He pays the full price for our sins; remember the words of Paul: “The wages of sin is DEATH” (cf. Rom 6:23; 8:6, 13; Gal 6:8); yet none of us as fallen creatures see sin as that significant… you can almost here fallen man say, “That’s a bit much; you are exaggerating the issue.” Thus fallen man rejects the concept of “hell” as well. Now if you are struggling with that issue, you need to study it as well. Contrary to what fallen man thinks, sin is evil and absolutely deplorable — such just shows us how corrupt we are as fallen creatures. In spite of the fact that we have a very remedial faith as fallen creatures, God loves us with an everlasting love. Since we may never come to know the magnitude of our sinfulness, in all probability God (because He is so gracious and loving) will probably never expose us to the depth of our sinfulness… in all probability He will simply completely eradicate it from our lives when we enter into His glory. Is it any wonder why God is so deserving of our love (i.e, our trusting Him and obeying Him and serving Him and living for Him?); to treat God’s love for us lightly, is grossly evil in and of itself.
Incidentally, no other religion in the entire world teaches that God completely forgives sin, yet it was also frequently taught in the Old Testament — said the Lord to Jeremiah, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Jer 31:34; Heb 8:12; 10:17); by the way, the words “no more” are emphatic in that passage. Beloved, “none of us are worthy of being forgiven” — now if you believe else wise you are seriously minimizing God’s love and grace, and elevating your own self-worth. Obviously as Christians we have to take our sins seriously, and not simply treat them as issues that only require verbal acknow-ledgement (that would be the way an unbeliever deals with his wrongdoings). What is absolutely incredible for fallen man to understand is that he is so self-centered & sinful that it requires the death of Christ to resolve his sinfulness; furthermore there is the fact that “God was pleased to crush His own Son for you and me” (Is 53:10) — How can that be? How can God love us that much? Remember, we are disgustingly self-centered, unworthy, fallen, sinful creatures. As the great hymn writer Charles Wesley said, “How can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me?” By the way, if you are interested in reading the entirety of that hymn, the title of it is “And Can It Be.” Now for a believer to treat sin lightly is not at all pleasing to the Lord; so living a self-centered life does not at all honor God for who He is… thus God will seriously discipline him and scourge him if necessary (read Heb 12:4-11) — since that’s a common road that every believer experiences at some point, all of us know what it means to be scourged; essentially the word literally means to be severely punished… by the way, the word scourge was used of the beating that Jesus experienced before His crucifixion (cf. Mt 27:26).
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD AND HIS GRACE
The fact that the Sovereign Creator of the universe shows “grace” to sinners, is the only hope fallen man has to overcome sin and ultimately experience its removal from his life — without God’s grace, he would have to bear the guilt of sin for all eternity. As the 5th century bishop St. Augustine essentially said, “grace is absolutely necessary in order to begin, continue, and complete the salvation of sinful man… that God must give sinners the desire, the faith, and the perseverance needed to ultimately walk into the heavenly realm; without grace one simply cannot be reconciled to God.” Now with that in mind, “God’s grace” needs to play a very significant role in the minds of believers — biblically speaking, grace refers to the undeserved blessing that God bestows on those who place their trust in Him; so grace is a construct of thought that is at the heart of Christian theo-logy and the Christian experience. Now with the foregoing in mind, it is also important to remember that God actually extends a level of grace to the entire human family (i.e., to both believers and unbelievers); how is that? the Eternal Son is sustaining all things by His powerful word (cf. Jn 1:1-4; Eph 1:5, 11; 3:11; Rom 8:28ff; 9:11; Col 1:16-18; Titus 2:14; Heb 1:2-3). Jesus reminded the massive crowd at the Sermon on the Mount that “God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Mt 5:15) — the reality is, the Creator’s sustaining care for His creatures is the foundation of divine providence. As it is stated in Walter Elwell’s “Evangelical Dictionary of Theo-logy” — “Though human society is in a state of human fallenness, were it not for the restraining hand of God, our world would actually have quickly degenerated into a self-destructive chaos of iniquity… in which social order would have been an impossibility” (hopefully you gave careful consideration to that statement, because it is very profound). So for one to claim that God is a distant reality in our lives and in our world is to simply speak of what one does not know. The apostle Paul actually teaches that civil government with its authorities is ordained by God, and that to resist these authorities is to resist the ordinance of God (cf. Rom 13:1-3; Mt 28:18; 1 Th 5:12-13; 1 Tim 2:1-3; Heb 13:17; 1 Pet 2:13-15); the ques-tion is — How can one possibly believe that our eternal Creator does not have authority over all that exists? Again, such thinking is absolute mindlessness; God Himself calls such thinking “absolute foolishness” (cf. Ps 14:1; Prov 1:7; 1:22; 13:19; 14:8-9; 14: 24; 24:7; Rom 1:21; 1 Cor 1:18, 20; 3:19). By the way, the apostle Paul even calls secular rulers and magistrates “ministers of God” — so man is not only accountable to obey those who rule over them, but to obey the God of creation as well (cf. Mt 22:21; Rom 13:1-2; Eph 6:5-6; Col 3:22; Titus 2:9; Heb 13:17; 1 Pet 2:13); with that in mind, when some God-ordained ruler significantly disobeys Him (remember, no one rises to power without God’s approval), God puts them to death (cross reference Adolf Hitler and numerous others down through the centuries). Remem-ber the words of God to King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon in the 6th century BC — because Nebuchadnezzar gloried in the royal residence he built in Babylon (i.e., making himself the greatest creature on the planet), God judged him very harshly and ultimately moved him off the thrown and out into the pasture to live with the beasts of the field, and eat the grass that the cattle eat… and for seven years Nebuchadnezzar lived like a beast, and at the end of that time “he turned to God and blessed Him and told Him that He is the most high who lives forever… that His dominion is an everlasting dominion… that no one can ward off His hand or question Him… that all of His works are true and His ways just… and that He is able to humble those who ‘walk in pride’” — obviously those are incredibly profound words… it was at that time that God then restored Nebuchadnezzar to the glory of his kingdom (cf. Dan 4:19-37). For any so-called God-fearing man to think that God is not in absolute control of all that goes on in our world, is absolute mindlessness. Today in our world well over a half a million people have died from a disease known as “coronavirus;” now whether that number grows to a million people or a billion people, only God knows that, and only God is going to bring it to an end. Now whether he does that through a group of people here in America or Europe or China, God is the one who will ultimately bring about its disclosure. It is only the arrogant clowns in our world who elevate man and think differently. Perhaps the question is this: “What effect is this disease ultimately going to have upon the people in our world?” Are they going to remain arrogant self-centered people, or are some of them going to humble themselves before God and give serious consideration to divine reality and the eternal state?
Keep in mind, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened in our world; things like this have occurred time and time again down through the ages, and oftentimes it has had a very positive effect upon peoples lives spiritually — Lord willing, that is what will occur again in our world today. Back in the ancient world, the Jewish people experienced God’s judgment several times, and as a result they often turned back to God and acknow-ledged their sinfulness… yet after a few years would pass, they would frequently return to their own self-centered life and minimize divine truth. Now due to the unwillingness of fallen man to defer to God, the God of heaven will continue to awaken people to reality with some very disconcerting actions. Back in the 8th century BC, during the days of the southern kingdom of Judah (Uzziah), and the northern kingdom of Israel (Jeroboam II), the king of Israel (Jeroboam II) made the city of Bethel a center of pagan worship — be-cause the temple in Jerusalem was in Judah (and not in the northern kingdom of Israel), Jeroboam II had encouraged the people of Israel to worship at Bethel instead of Jeru-salem. The Lord’s prophet Amos faced a very hostile audience in Bethel, so he bravely condemned the sins of Israel’s neighbors (i.e., the Syrians, Philistines, Phoenicians, Edo-mites, Ammonites, and Moabites)… he then went on to point out the iniquity of Judah and Israel — they had rejected God who had covenanted with them. The resultant affect upon Israel and Judah, was that God sent an earthquake into Mt. Carmel causing great disaster throughout the land; obviously, the Jewish world had transgressed the law of God, so God sent a great earthquake upon the land to awaken them as to their diabolical thinking and behavior (cf. Amos 1:1ff; Zech 14:5). By the way, in the book of Joel, the Lord roars against the nations, yet His wrath was directed primarily toward Israel (cf. Joel 3:16; also Jer 25:30; Amos 3:8; 9:3). Many times God’s judgment is described using the imagery of an earthquake (cf. Ps 18:7; Is 29:6; Nah 1:5; Rev 6:12; 8:5; 11:13; 16:18), and is often seen as a sign of the end of the time (Mt 24:7, 20). Remember, the earth quaked in revulsion at the death of Jesus (Mt 27:51-54); likewise, the earth quaked to move the stone from Jesus’ tomb (Mt 28:2). And then there are “the signs of Christ’s return” in Matthew 24 — when the disci-ples met with Jesus on the Mount of Olives just prior to His being crucified; they asked Jesus, “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Mt 24:3). He responded to them saying, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against king-dom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes… and they will de-liver you to tribulation and kill you, and you will be ‘hated’ by all nations on account of My name. And at that time many will fall away, and many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold…. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come” (Mt 24:7-14); incidentally, the emboldened words in those verses are emphatic in Greek. As Scripture states, at the end of the age, “there will be a great earthquake, and every mountain and island will be moved out of its place” (cf. Rev 6:12-14; also Rev 11:13; 16:18-21; 20:11; 21:1). Though the foregoing is a very sobering reality, what it says is true & must be embraced by God’s people, and the only way we can do that is to humble ourselves before the Lord and dialogue with Him as we study His Word… without doing so, our faith will be very shallow and very disconcerting, and such will not be a joy-ride at the end of the age.
THE PROPHETIC FUTURE OF OUR WORLD
Ultimately the prophetic future is going to be a very difficult one… though it is not easy to ascertain exactly what is going to occur in the distant future, the book of Revelation paints a very dark picture (read chapters 5-9). In addition to the foregoing, Jesus foretold of “The Great Tribulation” that is yet to come (cf. Mt 24:15-29) — Jesus said, “There will be a great tribulation (i.e., great afflictions), such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall” (cf. Mt 24:21)… “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened… and the moon will not give forth its light… and the powers of the heavens will be shaken… and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky… and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory, and His angels will gather together His elect from all the earth” (Mt 24:29-31); keep in mind, the emboldened words in those verses are all emphatic in Greek. Now the description of the Great Tribulation given by Christ in Matthew 24 is further described in Revelation 6-18 — as each seal is broken, great catastrophes be-gin to overtake the entire world (if you don’t want to read all of the chapters listed, at least take the time to read Rev 8:7, 8, 10, 12; 9:13, 15). Taken as a whole, the Great Tribulation is a prelude to the second coming of Christ, making it very clear how absolutely essential it is for divine intervention to be fully exhibited on the world stage; not only for the judgment of the wicked, but for the deliverance of His saints… though it will be an extremely negative reality for the unbelieving world, it will be an extremely positive reality for the believing world. When Jesus Christ enters into the world at His second coming, the heart of every human being will be completely overwhelmed; the minds of every human being will be completely convinced of God’s divine presence, and not a single mind will question it… one can only imagine the thoughts that people will think. Remember, there is going to come a day “when at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow… and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (cf. Phil 2:10-11); incidentally, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek.
And then there is the greatest grace of all, and that is the “grace” by which God redeems, sanctifies and glorifies His people — such grace is bestowed only on those whom God elects to eternal life through faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul writes about “the believer’s recreation in Christ” in his second letter to the Corinthians (cf. 2 Cor 5:18). So we are not only saved by God’s grace, but transformed by God’s grace as well, we experienced His grace in spite of the fact that our lives were previously bro-ken and meaningless — prior to our salvation, we were simply children of our father the devil” (Jn 8:44). Said the apostle Paul of himself, “By the grace of God alone, I am what I am” (1 Cor 15:10) — not a single one of us are who we are in Christ by some act of our own! Incidentally, the emboldened words “grace of God” that Paul stated are emphatic in Greek; I added the word “alone” because that defines the grace of God in the believer’s life; it is nothing but grace! The reality is: “every positive thing in the believer’s life is the product of God’s grace.” Beloved, God formed your inward parts before you were born, and He it is who made you like you are and placed you where you are today in this world — He determined your birth, your parents, your skill-set, your strengths your weak-nesses, the era in which you live, where you live, and how you came to know Him… you had absolutely nothing to do with any of the foregoing (cf. Ps 139:13-16; 119:73; Job 10:8-10; Is 44:24; Ecc 11:5). So grace always means it is GOD who takes the initiative and applies the priority of God’s action on behalf of needy sinners — this is the whole point of grace; it doesn’t start with us, it starts with GOD… it is not earned or merited in any way, but is freely and lovingly bestowed on those who have absolutely no resources or meriting sub-stance. Said the apostle John — “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins;” as such, “We love because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:10, 19); keep in mind the emboldened words in those two verses are emphatic in Greek. The reason I give extra emphasis to the emboldened words, is that they are extremely important; if one reads it accordingly they will appreciate their signifi-cance. Take the time to read the verses I quote in this study, and place great emphasis upon all the emboldened words; beloved, these words are not emphatic because I say so, they are emphatic because GOD says so! The problem with the so-called believing world down through the ages, is that they frequently failed to believe God’s word as it is clearly stated; that was precisely the problem of the ancient Jewish world; they simply interpreted things the way they wanted to interpret them; in so doing, God sent forth prophets into their world to “judge them and correct their thinking”… yet time after time they would argue with the prophets and even kill them (just like they did with Jesus! – Lk 11:47), and then suffer the consequences! Remember, God’s people (i.e., the Jews) CRUCIFIED CHRIST! Incidentally, only about a third of the Christian world today is embracing the totality of divine revelation; two-thirds of the Christian world is constantly changing the discourse; anything that doesn’t mesh with their thinking, they refuse to believe. Sadly, some of you may be doing the same thing; so the question is, WHY DO YOU INSIST ON CHANGING THE DISCOURSE? Though I have stated this several times, let me state it again — when a believer elevates himself to a degree (i.e., sees himself as being far better then he is), he is going to minimize who God is in his life (i.e., make Him less then He is); in other words, when one fails to see himself for who he truly is (a fallen sinful creature; saved “yes,” but fallen nonetheless — keep in mind, sin is far more prevalent in our lives than any true born-again believer fully understands; if that doesn’t make sense to you at this point in life, it will when you enter into heaven!); again, when one fails to see him-self for who he truly is, he will make God out to be less than He truly is. The problem with most believers in the Christian world is that they simply want to “feel good about themselves;” in other words, their primary focus is upon themselves rather than God (which is simply how our flesh operates — so either you take the initiative to radically change your thinking as a believer (if the foregoing is indeed the case), or you are going to live a very self-centered life. Beloved, we must focus on CHRIST in life and NOT OURSSELVES (that’s a dead-end street! though that doesn’t mean you are not saved, your focus in life is very problematic). Please don’t treat the foregoing lightly.
Beloved, essentially there is nothing written in this study that is the product of human thinking, so if you disagree with some of what is written, take the time to humbly study God’s Word on what it is you disagree with; by the way, if you don’t humbly do so, you will continue to cave in to your flesh (i.e., fallen human thinking). Keep in mind, the majority of the Roman Catholic World has changed the discourse on what Scripture actually teaches (as such, they are no different then the ancient Jewish world — remem- ber, at least 95 percent of the Jewish world back during the time of Christ, did not fully believe what God’s Word had stated; thus they changed the discourse — the premiere problem with the ancient Jewish world is that they honored the religious teaching of the rabbis as much as they did what Scripture teaches (they actually placed greater emphasis on what they said); so Jesus felt compassion for His people, “because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd” (cf. Mt 9:36). By the way, such is no different with Roman Catholicism — it oftentimes values the words of the popes (i.e., those with papal authority) over what Scripture clearly states. Now after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, the Church of Rome became the greatest unifying force in Europe during the Middle Ages, and it effectively ruled over the king-doms of Europe for about a thousand years; by the way, the Church of Rome back then was strongly committed to divine truth. However, by the end of the 10th century the Church of Rome had taken on an authoritarian role… and over the next few centuries warring princes often controlled the Church; keep in mind, just because the Christian Church was a solid church early on in the world, didn’t mean it would continue to be so. To understand this principle, take a look at the various colleges here in America (in particular the Ivy League colleges on the east coast)… most of them were founded by strong born-again Christians, yet that never insured the fact that all future leaders would be strong Bible-believing Christians; incidentally, nearly all of the Ivy League schools today are actually “anti-Christ!” Keep in mind, if there is any place Satan and his minions are working it is in Christian institutions & churches, and causing them to fall apart spiritually. By the way, the key to maintaining an effective spiritual ministry is to have very strong spiritual leaders and a very strong spiritual elder board that is wise enough to see the difference between great personalities and great men of faith. Sadly, a very large number of pastors have a very remedial faith; apparently they convinced the remedial church board that they were great pastors with great faith (when in fact they were not). This shouldn’t be a difficult construct for you to understand — if the “church elders” in a church aren’t highly committed to Christ and divine truth and servants of Christ, it will only take a short period of time until the church begins to go downhill; again, such is very common in the Christian world (be it in local Churches, Christian Institutions, Christian Colleges & Mission Organizations). By the way, if the vast majority of people on “elder boards” in churches are not actively serving in some ministry at least five to ten hours a week, they have no business being on the board (the only exception would be those who effectively served the Lord for years but are now retired). Only highly committed true born-again Christians will end up keeping ministries spiritually-alive, Christ-centered, and Christ-directed — again, that should not be a difficult construct for mature believers to embrace.
With the foregoing in mind, let’s return to the European world back around the 10th & 12th centuries... though most Europeans had become Christians, the Church of Rome was not only the highest spiritual authority in the Western world, but it became a very powerful political entity as well. One of the main problems back then was that the Church of Rome had assumed too much power, and often got involved in wrong issues, and failed to give sufficient attention to spiritual matters… so the leaders of the Church had become very egocentric & self-centered. As the 19th century historian Lord Action said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (beloved, that is an extremely wise construct); perhaps that explains why the popes did not reform the church as they should have… many Catholic popes during the later years lived lives of luxury and wickedness. Interestingly enough, the 14th century was characterized by deep social unrest and intel-lectual upheaval, and Europe was recovering from an outbreak of the “bubonic plague” (i.e., the Black Death as it was called), which moved rapidly across both Europe and Asia, and within twenty years, more than one-half of its population had died!… and many people believed that the plague was an act of divine punishment; thus they were terrified not only about their own survival, but their salvation as well — beloved, God was on the throne then, just as He is in our world today (nothing happens in our world that God does not ultimately permit or cause). The question is, will this thing called “coronavirus” have as drastic effect upon our world today as the bubonic plague had 600 years ago? Throughout the 14th century there were calls for reform… repeated attempts were made to rid the Church of its corruption… and by the end of the 15th century, it was apparent that no church leaders or councils had succeeded in reforming the Church. The reality was, it was at this time that the majority of people in Europe became aware of great discrepancies between what they were reading in Scripture and what was being practiced and taught by the Church of Rome. By the end of the 15th century (i.e., 500 years ago), there were numerous voices throughout Europe calling for urgent reform!, and when that did not occur, open dissent led to this thing called “The Reformation!”, which essentially was a series of reform attempts and movements between the 14th & 17th centuries. The message was clear: biblical literacy had been restricted to the clergy in the Catholic Curch, but at the beginning of the 16th century adult literacy had increased all over Europe because of the development of the printing press, and the clerical monopoly on literacy had finally been broken, and those people who protested against the abuses that took place in the Church came to be known as Protestants — though the term itself means to protest and to raise objection, Protestants believed they were confessing the primitive faith of the early church, which had been obscured by the later innovations of medieval Catholicism. More specifically, they regarded their message as a recovery of Pauline theology. Incidentally, biblical literacy was restricted to the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church up until about 1960 here in America — up until then, the Church of Rome did not permit its congregants to read Scripture on their own; though that is no longer the case, few priests in the Roman Catholic world are good students of the Word… many of them still embrace the ancient thoughts of some diabolical popes.
Though the Reformation began with a spark, it ultimately became a raging fire; no longer did the Church of Rome control biblical literacy, because the entire western world had now learned to read (which ultimately was the result of the Renaissance). Once again, look at how GOD directs things in our world; remember, He’s the one who shuts doors and opens doors, and causes divine truth to prevail and untruth to fall apart. Another extremely interesting point is this — following the Reformation, the European Christian world became the founders of a new country in North America called the United States, and the “constitution” they put together was grounded on divine biblical standards (all genuine studies strongly agree with that statement), yet the supra-liberal left today argues vehemently against it, not because the evidence supports their position, but because they absolutely hate Christ (i.e., they are “anti-Christ!”), and do not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture (remember, they completely distort what Scripture says just like the ancient Jewish world did — the ancient Jewish world hated Christ so much they crucified Him!). Regarding the Constitution, the very first amendment focused on “freedom of worship and religion!” (that was at the very top of the list). Now think about all of the foregoing with the understanding that GOD was on the throne accomplishing all of His good plea-sure, and this He oftentimes did through the brother-hood of His people (read Is 46:9-11); it should be obvious, God developed the Renaissance and Printing Press that everyone in the Roman world could read the Bible on their own (remember, they had been denied that privilege by the Church of Rome prior to the Renaissance)… thus God brought about the Protestament Reformation that His people could be fed divine truth, and following the Reformation He brought a brand new country on to the world stage that was founded on the Christian faith – the United States of America – and ultimately God has used it to introduce divine truth & the gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world, that people might come to know Christ and place their trust in Him. Incidentally, the vast majority of those who had entered into America during the early years of the 17th century were pilgrims & puritans, so the early years of America were strongly influenced by the Christian faith. Obviously, this didn’t just happen by accident, it was GOD-ordained… and ultimately our world was introduced to divine truth and the gospel of Christ (the reality is, a significant percentage of God’s missionaries in our world over the last 150 years came out of the United States). Again, God is GOD — contrary to what anyone believes, there is no such thing as happenstance in our world… GOD is on the throne accomplishing all His good pleasure… remember, He has declared the end from the beginning! (cf. Is 46:9-11; Eph 1:11). Keep in mind, just because the United States was essentially founded by believers, does not mean it will forever be grounded in the faith; the truth is, we have lost a lot of our faith already. By the way, if you are knowledgeable of Scripture, you know that this world is going to have a very ugly ending — Satan and the anti-Christ are going to be on the throne for a few years trying to completely destroy God’s input in the world, yet little do they know God is going to bring the hammer down upon them and basically destroy them and the unbelieving world… incidentally, there is already a lot of extreme hatred for Christ and the Christian community in the Western world; thus it appears the end is not too far away. Remember, here was America proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ not too long ago, yet half of America now “absolutely hates Christ & His followers;” all one must do is study all that took place under President Barack Obamo’s administration and every-thing the liberal left refused to any longer tolerate; I identified a number of those things in a study I did titled “True Unequivocal Truth” (you can access it on my website). Now regarding a lot of what I have stated in the last few paragraphs, I quoted some of it from a textbook that I wrote on Christianity about 15 years ago; it is titled — “Christianity: The Pursuit of Divine Truth” (Xulon Press, 2008, pp. 233-258); if you are interested in securing a copy of the book, simply go online to Amazon.com — I wish I still had numerous copies to give away, but I no longer have many in my possession; back when it was published I gave away nearly 1,000 copies of it to several Christian Institutions, College Professors, and Church Leaders in the Christian world.
Now as we approach the end of the age, we are reminded of the fact that the Nation of Israel has now been placed back on the world stage!!! — and no other country comes close to exceeding her; here is a country of only 20 million people (15 million of which are Jews), being at the very center of our world today! How can that be? How can some tiny little country be that influential in our world? Beloved, GOD is on the throne, and what He has so-willed has come to pass — exactly as it is stated in Scripture!!! So after nearly 1,900 years, God opened the door to Jewish people in 1948, and once again estab-lished the Nation of Israel in our world; remember, the Nation of Israel was destroyed in 70 AD by the Roman Empire, which brought about the Great Diaspora (i.e., the scatter-ing of the Jews out of Palestine), and that didn’t cease until 1948 when God moved His people back into the Promised Land! Essentially, God’s people had been dispersed throughout the world for almost 1,900 years! With that in mind, let’s reflect upon what Scripture says — “A partial hardening occurred in Israel back in the 1st century, due to her crucifying Christ & rejecting divine truth.” According to Scripture, “God hardened Israel’s heart until the fullness of the Gentiles has been accomplished… and when that occurs there will come a day when God will remove ungodliness from Jacob (i.e., Israel), and nearly all of Israel will be saved” (cf. Rom 11:25-27). Keep in mind, when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, Israel will once again be the center of world history! Beloved, that time period isn’t too far away!!! The reality is this: “The gift and the calling of God are irrevocable… just as Gentiles were once disobedient to God, so Israel has been dis-obedient — God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all!” (Rom 11:28-32); incidentally, the emboldened words in those verses are emphatic in Greek. Re-member the words of Jesus to His disciples when they asked Him, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the Kingdom to Israel?” To which He replied: “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; you are simply to be My witnesses throughout the world” (cf. Acts 1:6-7). Incidentally, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek, and were Jesus’ “last words” to His disciples… He then ascended into Heaven.
The details of Israel’s future restoration and salvation are given to us in the book of Zech-ariah (cf. Zech 12:10-13:1). Said the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah: “Days are coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel… I will put My law within them, and I will write it on their heart; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people… I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (cf. Jer 31:31-34; also Is 59:20-21). Incidentally, the future glory of Israel is described in Isaiah 60-66 (should you care to read it). To contextually describe the change in the Jewish world that ultimately is going to take place, during the early part of the Great Tribulation by Satan and the anti-Christ, 144,000 Jews will return to Christ & become His saints (i.e., 12,000 become saints from each of the twelve tribes – cf. Rev 7:4ff); their actions are described in Revelation chapter seven (vv. 9-17). So in the end, the Nation of Israel shall recognize Christ as their Messiah and repent and receive Him as their Lord and Savior (cf. Zech 14:4; Acts 1:11; Rev 1:7). In so doing, the 144,000 Jewish saints will minister divine truth to the world during the Great Tribulation… and in spite of the fact that the demonic world will hate them with a pass-ion, God will protect them!!! As incredible as it may seem, during the Great Tribulation millions upon millions of people with turn to Christ! so Israel will finally be the witness nation God had always wanted them to be — said the Lord to His people Israel, “And you shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation” (cf. Ex 19:16; Lev 20:26; Is 43:10). Now with the foregoing in mind, it is important to remember, God has already placed the Jewish people back in the Promised Land, so the “end times” are not very far off!!!
Though there are still problems in the Christian world today, five hundred years ago the problems were horrific (the Christian Church in Rome had gone completely amuck and actually “killed genuine believers”)… though the problems back then were absolutely grievous, there are still many Christians in our world who are changing the discourse (just as the Church of Rome did). By the way, for those of you who are “pastoring in churches” you need to know that God has given you a tremendous responsibility, thus you must give very careful consideration to what God’s word says and precisely what it is you are teaching; never should you teach your own opinion! NEVER! You don’t have the option of changing the discourse (no matter how physically handsome you are… how wonderful your personality is… or how great your tongue is!). As a pastor, you have the responsibility to preach the truth as God has so stated it, and not simply make it some humanistic theology of thought… remember, there is going to come a day when you are going to have to give an account for everything you have taught — if you are not well-versed in Scripture, you have no business teaching; don’t defend yourself by saying, “Well it’s better than nothing!” NO IT’S NOT, BECAUSE YOUR TEACHING IS NOT TRUE! Said James, the brother of Jesus: “Let not many of you be teachers, because you are going to incur a stricter judgment!” (Jam 3:1); likewise, the apostle Paul said to Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15); again, the emboldened words in those two verses are emphatic in Greek. With the foregoing in mind, you need to spend significant time studying God’s Word and preparing your sermons (15 hours a week should be the minimum amount of time you spend praying and preparing your sermon). Remember the words of the twelve disciples to the congre-gation of believers when some of their needs were not being met — they responded say-ing, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables”… so the brethren selected seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, to do the work that needed to be done… thus the disciples said, “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word” (cf. Acts 6:1-4); incidentally, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek; that message ought to be very clear for those of you who are pastors — you must spend “significant time” praying and studying God’s Word, that your preaching is completely of divine origin. With the foregoing in mind, remember the words of the resurrected Christ to Peter just prior to His ascending into heaven: “Do you love Me? Then Tend to My lambs… Shepherd My sheep… Tend My sheep” (Jn 21:15-17); as God’s servants we have the responsibility to “FEED HIS SHEEP!” Always keep in mind, they are not our sheep, they are GOD’S SHEEP! And we must feed them God’s Word as it is clearly stated in Scripture — if you have not completely humbled yourself before God as one of His servants, you won’t be used by God to minister to His people; instead they will be like sheep without a shepherd! One of the premiere problems with many pastors is that they are humorists… they like to joke and be admired by the con-gregation… the reality is, they are too much into themselves rather than Christ and His will for His people. If you are simply interested in letting your congregation experience a fun little worship hour, then get out of the ministry, because you are robbing God’s people! (again cf. 2 Tim 2:15; 3:16-17; Jam 3:1; Acts 17:11).
The problem with many pastors is that they actually think their congregation is “their people.” Now if we abrogate our responsibility, we are going to be held accountable! Though I have personally been a student of Scripture now for almost 50 years, during the past 15 years I have done over one hundred different biblical studies, most of which I have placed on my website — www.thetransformedsoul.com — in so doing I have fre-quently quoted some of the most revered theologians in the Christian world, because of their incredible respect for the integrity of God’s Word. With that in mind, I constantly insist on aligning my thinking with divine truth as God has stated it in His word; embra-cing humanistic thinking has always been something I wanted absolutely nothing to do with for two reasons — because Scripture identifies it as “untruth,” and warns against it over and over again… and because of the negative impact humanistic thinking has had on God’s religious world both in the ancient past and even in our world today. As such, I have always prayed for the grace to believe divine truth, and the grace to reject fallen thinking. It was the words of James (Jesus’ brother) that God used to motivate me to get seminary training if I was going to be one of God’s servants in ministry; the reality was, God led me to attend one of the most revered seminaries in the Christian community — Talbot Theological Seminary in southern California. The motivational words of James are what influenced that decision — “Let not many of you be teachers because you are going to incur a stricter judgment” (Jam 3:1); again, the emboldened words in that verse are emphatic in Greek. If one simply interprets God’s Word lightly, he better get out of the ministry, because he has no business treating God’s Word lightly. As an adjunct professor of theology and the Christian faith, I constantly place a premium on precisely what it is that Scripture teaches, and incorporate it into the various studies that I write; being mindful of the fact that what I write could be affecting the lives of many believers in our world. As stated in several other studies, much to my amazement my website is getting between 1500 and 1700 hits a day in countries all over the world. My prayer has always been that God will speak to people’s hearts through the divine truths that He has given me the grace to write; again, this ministry is not about me, it is about GOD and the people He chooses to communicate with. Obviously I never dreamed that God would use me in this kind of ministry… but this ministry is the one God has called me to. I always found it interesting that God had made me a “why boy!” Even as a little child, I often ask the question “Why?” and my mother would try to answer me; yet at times she would say, “Honey, I don’t know.” Little did I know, God would one day use my inquisitive nature to serve Him in this capacity. Remember, we are not the product of our own doing (none of us are), we are the product of God’s doing, and He knows exactly what He is doing, and why He is doing it.
In CLOSING. . .
As the apostle Paul said, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us… thus when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son” (cf. Rom 5:8, 10; 2 Cor 8:9) — again, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek. Take a moment and reflect upon what Paul said — Christ died for us not because we were great creatures, but because He loved us even as fallen creatures who were children of the devil!!! The ques-tion is, how can one possibly love & care for fallen creatures who hate him? Obviously, God completely rejects who we are as fallen creatures, yet because He is a God of love, He determined to reconcile us to Himself and transform us into His image & remove our fallen diabolical nature from us. Being as much of the foregoing doesn’t happen instant-taneously, our transformation is a process that will not fully be accomplished until we enter into the eternal state in heaven. Now aside from the fact that God is spirit, infinite, omniscient, omnipotent & omnipresent, the two premiere attributes that define the charac-ter of God are these: God is “holy” and God is “love.” The word “holy” literally refers to sanctity or separation from all that is sinful or impure — God’s profound “holiness” is frequently alluded to in Scripture (cf. Ex 15:11; Lev 11:44-45; 19:2; 1 Sam 2:2; Ps 71:22; 99:9; 111:9; Is 6:3; Hab 1:12; 1 Pet 1:16; Rev 15:4; etc.). The most profound definition of God in all of Scripture is this — “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory” (cf. Is 6:3 and Rev 4:8). You’ll notice, the passage doesn’t just say, “Holy is the Lord” or “Holy, Holy is the Lord,” but “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord!” Beloved, that is the most accent-uated definition of God in all of Scripture — the word Holy is stated “three times!” God often employed “redundancy” when emphatically defining absolute truth… in order to accentuate what He was saying He frequently prefaced His words by saying, “Truly, truly I say to you” (cf. Jn 1:51; 3:3; 3:5; 3:11; 5:19; 5:24; 5:25; 6:26; 6:32; 6:47) — though there is no point in quoting all of the verses, you’ll notice I have listed ten of them; let me encour-age you to read those verses because the messages Jesus was communicating in them are VERY EMPHATIC!!! To question them in any way is to reject divine truth. Again, the reality is, either we believe what God says (i.e., divine truth) or we embrace human thinking — and there’s a world of difference between the two! This is precisely the pro-blem with diabolical man! Beloved, take the time to contemplate the ten verses listed, and then humbly dwell on them in an absolute sense (that is all God asks of us). Now, according to Scripture, if there is anything that God is, He is “ABSOLUTELY HOLY!” — that word Holy is “qadosh” in Hebrew; when it is used of God, it refers to the ethical spotlessness of His character (cf. Lev 11:44; also Is 1:4; 5:16; 40:25; 57:15; 1 Sam 2:2; 1 Pet 1:6), and signifies His separation from, and transcendency over all of His creation (Ex 3:4-5). Thus holiness refers to that which is completely separated from all that is unrighteous and unholy; so holiness is the premiere essence of God Himself. Remember what transpired between Moses and God in the ancient world — when the children of Israel worshipped a “molten calf” that Moses’ brother Aaron built while Moses was up on Mt. Sinai (Ex 32)… the Lord became angry with His people and was about to destroy them… hence Moses entreated the Lord to not do so… thus the Lord changed His mind about the harm He would do to His people. Ultimately, when Moses came back down from Mt. Sinai to see the people, Moses prayed to God, “Show me Thy glory!” (Ex 33:18). To which God responded, “I will make all My goodness pass before you… but you cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live… thus you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen” (Ex 33:19-20, 23). Now though God is Spirit (invisible), we cannot fully describe what Moses experienced in this dramatic encounter; Scripture tells us that Moses experienced only a glimpse of what will one day be experienced. Apparently, human language is too limited to express the mysteries that these verses contain… though Moses saw something wonderful, He did not see the God of all creation face to face. Ultimately, the Lord passed by in front of Moses saying, “The Lord God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and truth… though He will not leave the guilty unpun-ished.” Then Moses responded, “O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go along in our midst, even though the people are so obstinate; and do pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Thine own possession” (Ex 34:6-9). Incidentally, when the word “holy” is used of man, religiously it refers to withdrawal & consecration; i.e., withdrawal from what is common and unclean, and consecration to what is divine, sacred and pure (cf. Ex 29:1ff). Remember the words of the Lord to His people, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (cf. Lev 11:44; 19:2; 20:7; 1 Pet 1:16); keep in mind that emboldened word “holy” is emphatic!!! Yet such think-ing seems to be almost other-worldly to the majority of believers.
The word “love” in Scripture is described as seeking the highest good of others; with that in mind, remember “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8, 16), thus He is constantly seeking our highest good. God’s gracious love for fallen man is strongly declared in both the Old and New Testaments (cf. Ex 34:6; Is 63:9; Jer 31:3; Jn 3:16; 1 Jn 4:10) — the reality is, love underlies all that God does: He creates in love, He rules in love, and He judges in love… although many facts exist which we are not able to reconcile with His love, because of our limited under-standing as human beings (remember, fallen thinking has a very difficult time correlating negatives with love), love is the absolute ruler in God’s heart. The highest disclosure and the most complete proof of divine love is in the redemption of fallen man (cf. Rom 5:8; 8:32-39; 1 Jn 4:9-10). The love of God toward people is seen throughout all of Scripture — it is a love that is not only unselfish but completely unmerited. The epitome of God’s love is seen in His redeeming sinful creatures (who are actually deserving of His wrath, not His love), but instead He sent His Son into the world to die for them that they might become His children (cf. Rom 5:6-11). C. S. Lewis in his book “The Four Loves,” says: “God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them” (pp. 175-176). And then there are the words of the hymn “The Love of God,” which was written by Frederick M. Lehman (1868-1953), who pastured several Nazarene churches here in the Unites States in Indiana, Illinois, Kansas and California —
The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star, and reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care, God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled, and rescued from his sin.
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure —
The saints’ and angels’ song.
Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above would drain the oceans dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.
Because of the incredible nature of God’s love, it can only be apprehended under the influence of the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5) — i.e., God Himself must communicate it to man’s heart; human thinking cannot do so; keep in mind, God only communicates divine truth to those who approach Him with a humble heart; without humbling oneself before God one will live completely in the dark! The reality is, the sinners state is one of spiritual death, and his only hope is the miracle of a new birth from above (Jn 3:3). Remember the words of Paul, “By grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not of yourself, it is the gift of God — not by works or your own worthiness, that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9); again, those emboldened words are emphatic in Greek. Said Jesus, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me… and whoever comes to Me I will cer-tainly not cast out… and this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given Me, but raise them up on the last day” (Jn 6:37, 3; also Jn 17:2, 6, 9, 12, 24 ); again, the emboldened words are emphatic in Greek. Said Jesus, “My sheep hear My voice… and they follow Me… I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; and no one shell snatch them out of My hand” (cf. Jn 10:27-28; Rom 8:29-30); again, the em-oldened words are emphatic in Greek. Beloved, everything we have from beginning to end, is owed to the grace of God (cf. 2 Cor 5:18, 21). Those who reject the message of the gospel, turn away from it of their own choice, and stand self-condemned as lovers of darkness rather than light (cf. Jn 3:19, 36)… and those who thankfully receive it, humbly do so in full personal responsibility (Jn 1:12; 3:16), and when they do, they give all of the praise to God, because their whole redemption (in some wonderful way) is due entirely to the grace of God and not at all to themselves. Scripture makes it very clear — none of us as fallen creatures can fully understand the magnitude of God’s sovereignty or His love for us; our finite minds simply cannot understand God’s infinite divine thinking — remember the Lord’s word to Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways… For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts… My words that go forth from My mouth shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire” (Is 55:8-11). At some point every creature in existence must acknowledge his limitations and defer to God as the sovereign Creator He is, and stop insisting that he must fully under-stand reality with his finite mind; such thinking is completely illogical (that would be akin to placing the entire ocean in a tiny little thimble); for a creature to not admit his limita-tions is to border on pure arrogance and lunacy… at some point a believer must embrace divine reality. As God’s children we naturally all try to embrace divine truth in all its full-ness, yet the darkness of our fallen-minds obviously keeps us from fully understanding the absolute glory of divine grace; therefore in this life “we must keep on growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 2:18), in so doing we will all be-gin to totally defer to the infinite omniscient God of creation, knowing that we will never fully understand the incredible grace of God until we enter into His eternal glory; never- theless, we can humbly learn to accept it in all its fullness.
It is also important for adult believers to understand they are no longer little children, so they must start embracing the fullness of God’s will for their lives… in so doing, “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (cf. Phil 4:4-7). Every believer must always be mindful of the fact that “with- out faith (i.e., without believing what God says) it is not possible to please God” (cf. Heb 11:6) — that shouldn’t be a difficult construct for any adult believer to understand. Why do believers sometimes doubt God’s love? Because they don’t see themselves as deserving it; after all, how can one love something that is completely undeserving? The reality is, every one of us as fallen creatures frequently make a mess of things, and because of our fallen thinking as believers we have a tendency to deduce that God is not pleased with us; remember, all sin is against God, therefore how can God be pleased with us or love us when we sin against Him? Yet, to our amazement, love still defines God in our lives. The truth is, not one of us is even remotely worthy of God’s love; that is simply the incredible nature of our glorious God… His love for us has nothing to do whatsoever with our meriting it (absolutely nothing!). Thus the issue ultimately is this: if you actually think you must be worthy of His love, you will actually be minimizing God’s love for you; that’s the incredible nature of God’s love; He has loved us in spite of our complete unworthiness. The reason we doubt God’s love at times, is because our corrupt fallen thinking makes God out to be less then He is. With the foregoing in mind, God simply asks us to humble ourselves before Him, and grieve over our sins, and repent with a contrite heart; in so doing He will forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (cf. 1 John 1:9). Remember, “God knows our frame and is mindful that we are but dust” (i.e., that we are an absolute mess – Ps 103:14); as such, “He sympathizes with our weaknesses,” which are immense (cf. Heb 4:15). Yet in spite of the fact that God loves us unconditionally, He doesn’t treat our sins lightly; thus we often experience God’s discipline in life, which is the pro-duct of His love (cf. Heb 12:4-11). Again, it is our fallen thinking that is the problem; it simply cannot equate negatives with love; thus we must humbly pour out our heart to the Lord and experience His grace and peace. Remember, it is by “grace” alone that we have any standing before God (cf. Rom 3:23-24; Eph 2:4-5, 8-9; 2 Tim 1:9; Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5). Said Peter to the Christian world at the end of his second letter, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity” (2 Pet 3:18). Now with all of the foregoing in mind, Christians must believe and have a pretty good command of the following twenty basic truths of the Christian faith — you’ll notice when you read each of these truths, they are each accompanied with reasons why they are questioned and not easily believed… now with the foregoing in mind, Christians must:
1. Believe in the integrity of divine truth as it is stated in Scripture…
in spite of the fact that many churches don’t believe everything that “God’s Word actually states,” because it doesn’t mesh with fleshly thinking.
2. Believe that God loves them…
in spite of the fact that they are “completely sinful creatures” and frequently “experience negatives” in life; by the way, that’s a difficult construct.
3. Believe that God is a God of grace…
in spite of the fact that God has not removed their flesh from their lives, and are still sinful creatures who are “completely unworthy” of His grace.
4. Believe that genuine faith is a gift of God that results in eternal life…
in spite of the fact that their life seems to be “a complete contradiction;” their flesh always seems to have a way of negatively impacting their faith.
5. Believe that Christ is their life, rather than the petty things of this world…
in spite of the fact that they live in this world, they must not live for them-selves or this world, but for Christ who is “their Master, Lord & Savior.”
6. Believe that sin is a grievous violation of divine law…
in spite of the fact that they bear witness to the love of Christ, they still often “choose to sin in numerous ways.”
7. Believe that their flesh is a strong integral part of their life…
in spite of the fact that the “Holy Spirit” dwells in them and is constantly waging war against their flesh.
8. Believe that repentance is essential when they commit a sin…
in spite of the fact that they “frequently stumble and sin in life;” little do they know, they will never completely overcome sinning in life.
9. Believe that God forgives them when they confess their sins…
in spite of the fact that they “never stop sinning in life;” again, that is a difficult construct to embrace because many question their forgiveness.
10. Believe that temptation is an integral part one’s flesh…
in spite of the fact that they have “crucified themselves with Christ,” sin still often rules in the moment.
11. Believe that God tries and tests their faith to make it a greater faith…
in spite of the fact that trials and tribulation cause “great consternation” in their soul.
12. Believe that divine truth is the foundation of reality…
in spite of the fact that “their own fleshly thinking” frequently argues to the contrary and rules in the moment.
13. Believe their eternal hope must be their premiere focus in life…
in spite of the fact that “this worldly life” basically dominate pretty much all that goes on in their life.
14. Believe in the sovereignty of God and His control over all things in life…
in spite of the fact that “much of their life is a significant negative to them;”
as such, they frequently question God as to why things are as they are in life.
15. Believe that they must persevere through all of the ups and downs of life…
in spite of the fact that “life is a war” they find too difficult to overcome; thus making them question the effectiveness of their own efforts to win.
16. Believe that studying Scripture is essential for growing in their faith…
in spite of the fact that they “often question and misinterpret” exactly what it teaches; thus, they feel completely overwhelmed by the task.
17. Believe that praying is essential for communicating with God in life…
in spite of the fact their prayers “don’t seem to change anything” in their life; which can cause them to pray less in life rather than pray more.
18. Believe that corporate worship is essential for the body of Christ in life…
in spite of the fact that most believers seem to “contribute very little to God’s people;” though we cannot control others, we can serve them.
19. Believe that loving God results in loving and serving other people in life…
in spite of the fact that many don’t have command of “their spiritual gifts,” or full confidence in their own service; they must leave that up to God.
20. Believe that God is the “source” of all that exists in our lives…
in spite of the fact we are grossly deficient creatures, we experience both “great blessings” in life, as well as some very “disconcerting negatives.”
Now regarding all the foundations of the faith (i.e., biblical truths), in spite of the fact we may embrace them, still none of us will ever arrive at perfection in this life — not even close; thus at times, our imperfection can be a very troubling construct for the believing world (yet our imperfection does define reality). Because imperfection weighs heavily upon the minds of believers, let’s look at this issue more deeply. Perhaps one could com-pare the spiritual life of the believer to that of a major league baseball player — though no one but Christ can bat 1,000 (i.e., get a hit every time one swings the bat), we can all work at being a whole lot better than we are (massively better). Though we may only be batting about .200 right now… all of us as believers can bat significantly better than that, because God has given us the grace to do so. The issue is, if we really work at it, there is no reason why we can’t ultimately end up batting about .300! If you are familiar with major league baseball, you know full-well that batting .300 is a rarity that only about five-percent act-ually accomplish. Now with the foregoing in mind, the Christian life is not a matter of having a great personality and a great skill-set, it is simply a matter of doing the best we can with everything God has given us in life, and being very diligent in our work. There’s no reason for the believer to simply end life spiritually batting .215 (that’s a very minimal number); such simply defines the lack of effort that one puts forth to walk with Christ in this life. Furthermore, don’t let your humanistic imperfection cause you to “throw in the towel in life!” Every one of us can put our best foot forward and “do our best in life!” The problem is, if you are not sold out to Christ, you are going to live a very juvenile life with a very remedial faith, and a very low spiritual batting average. The lack of perfection is not the issue, because no man who ever lived came anywhere close to perfection — yet the saints of God who wrestled through all the ups and downs of life to the praise of His glory, in the end pleased God greatly! Remember, God is mindful that we are but dust! (cf. Ps 103:14; Gen 8:21). The reality is, we are fallen sinful creatures (saved yes, but fallen nonetheless), and He sympathizes with our weaknesses (which are very significant – cf. Heb 4:15) — though all of us entered into this world as children of the devil, God sent His Son into the world to die for us that we might ultimately be transformed into the image of His Son! The question is, how can God have possibly loved us that much? The truth is, God is so incredibly glorious, He transcends finite human thinking (as human beings we simply cannot even conceive of His greatness). Remember, the two foundational con-structs that we must fully embrace are these: we must see God for who He really is, and we must see ourselves for who we really are — to elevate ourselves or denegrate God is not at all the road you want to travel on (that’s a dead-end street). Why “reality” is such a difficult construct for us as believers to fully embrace, is hard to know, but it is not something that we cannot overcome… the problem is, fallen man has simply been duped by Satan (that is simply what Satan does in the hearts & minds of believers). If one does not take the initiative to humbly embrace divine truth, he is simply going to end up walk-ing in the dark rather than in the light. If the foregoing defines you, let me encourage you to go online to my website and read a couple of studies on subjects that you may find help-ful to you — www.thetransformedsoul.com — and ask God to give you the “grace” to see reality for what it really is; remember, when you humble yourself before God He will open your eyes to divine truth. Incidentally, you can make a printable pdf copy of every study on my website — simply click on the “icon” on the upper right hand corner of the first page of any study, and you will access it (there is no purchase required for any of my studies). Since the foregoing is a very common road for believers to travel, take a moment and reflect upon the words of the Lord to the people of Israel — “When you call upon Me and pray to Me, I will listen to you, and you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (cf. Jer 29:12-13; and Prv 8:17; Is 55:6; Mt 7:7). And then there are the words of David in Psalm 19; following is a simplified version of it:
The heavens declare the glory of God, and shows His handiwork.
Every day it continues to speak and reveal knowledge.
Though He speaks without sound, His message goes out to the entire world.
The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul.
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.
The commandments of the Lord are pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.
The judgments of the Lord are true, and are righteous all together.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, then much fine gold.
By them Thy servant is warned, and in keeping them he is greatly rewarded.
Who can discern all of his errors? Lord, acquit me of hidden faults.
Keep me from deliberate sins; don’t let them rule over me.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart,
Be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Due to the fact that nearly every believer, at some point questions the integrity of his or her faith (that’s the norm for fallen man); thus I wanted to take the time to help resolve that issue. Lord willing the following will be helpful. Believers usually question their faith when their hearts are darkened and they are experiencing some very disconcerting negatives in their lives; because we don’t seem to be able to affirm reality as we would like to affirm it, our “feelings” at times seem to control the discourse that goes on in our lives. With the foregoing in mind, it’s important to remember the foundation of our sal-vation as it is expressed in Scripture: “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself… according to the kind intention of His will… we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (cf. Eph 1:4-5, 11; also Eph 2:10; Acts 13:48; 2 Th 2:13; Heb 7:25; Mt 25:34). Though that may be a difficult construct for some of you to believe, that defines reality; remember, the eternal, omniscient, omnipotent God created all things after His will… how could He not? He is GOD!… obviously, He had a reason for doing what He did and had some kind of plan in mind (to think anything else would be a little silly). Before you try to argue to the contrary, at least consider what “God’s Word” has to say on that subject — remember, Scripture is GOD’S WORD: “All Scripture is inspired by God” (i.e., God breathed – 2 Tim 3:16); “it was not made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Pet 1:20-21) — keep in mind, the emboldened words are emphatic in Greek. In short, Scripture is GOD’S WORD! There-fore, it is believable and trustworthy — God doesn’t lie! (cf. Titus 1:2; Heb 6:18; 1 Jn 2:21). Said Jesus, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (Jn 10: 27-29). Said Paul, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son… and whom He predes-tined, these He also called… and justified… and glorified… . nothing shall separate us from the love of God” (Rom 8:28-30, 39). In order to help answer this eternal work God is doing in our lives, it is important to remember that the doctrine of spiritual assurance is widely taught in the New Testament, particularly by Paul & John. Paul plainly teaches that the Spirit of adoption produces in the Christian the assurance of adoption (cf. Rom 8:15-17; 8:29-30; Gal 4:6). Said Paul, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6). Said Paul to the Thessalonians: “The gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (cf. 1 Th 1:5; Acts 16:14; 1 Cor 12:3). The apostle John quoted the words of Jesus in his gospel: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (cf. Jn 5:24); keep in mind, the words “Truly, truly” are emphatic in Greek. Beloved, if you cannot believe what Scripture teaches, you cannot believe God, because Scripture is God’s self-revelation to man. Said John latter, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn 5:13; also 1 Jn 4:13); by the way, the emboldened words are emphatic in Greek. The truth is, every Christian can be sure he will continue in a state of grace all the way to the end, because God says so! Not because he is self-deserving (no man is!). I am reminded of the words of King David: “Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb… . Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Thy book were written all the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (Ps 139:13-16). As the bishop of Hippo in Roman North Africa, Augustine, said in the 5th century — “The elect of God are born of the Spirit, thus they can never fall from grace; our eternal security is freely given by God, and is not at all dependent upon the believer’s work.” The reality is this, we are kept in the faith by the almighty power of God; thus we are eternally secure… and predestined to eternal glory in heaven. In spite of the fact that we may frequently stumble and cave into sin at times, we do not lose our salvation or suffer separation from Christ. Beloved, the believer must walk through life absolutely sure of his eternal destiny (simply because God has declared it!) — remember, each of us has been saved by “the grace of God;” keep in mind, that word “grace” literally means “undeserved favor” — not one of us deserves it! That’s how incredibly great and loving our God is. Now just as our redemption was totally the work of God through His Son, so also is our eternal destiny the work of God. Obviously there are numerous other passages on this subject that we could have quoted (but didn’t); so should you need to study everything Scripture teaches on this subject, please take the time to do so (you owe it to yourself as one of God’s children). Meanwhile, let me give a summary of some of God’s miraculous work in our lives; in so doing, let me encourage you to re- flect upon all of the passages that are listed — remember, this is a study, not a casual read, so take the time to contemplate the incredible work God is doing in our lives:
*God is transforming us as believers into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18).
*God is at work in our world, causing everything to work for our good (Rom 8:28, 31).
*We suffer with Christ that we may be glorified with Him (Rom 8:17; 1 Pet 4:12-13; 5:10).
*God encourages us through His Word, thus filling us with hope (Rom 15:4; Ps 146:5).
*The Holy Spirit gives us understanding of the things of God (Ps 25:4-5, 14; 32:8; 1 Cor 2:14).
*God is the cause of our spiritual growth – we plant, God causes the growth (1 Cor 3:6).
*The Holy Spirit has taken up residence in every believer’s life (Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19).
*God provides a way of escape when we are tempted; it is not inescapable (1 Cor 10:13).
*As our Father, God disciplines us that He might change us (1 Cor 11:32; Heb 12:11).
*God comforts us in our affliction; He doesn’t leave us in our pain (2 Cor 1:4).
*God is continually at work in us renewing our inner man (Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 4:16; Eph 5:23).
*God makes us sorrowful when we sin that we might repent and turn to Him (2 Cor 7:9).
*God’s grace is perfected in us in our weaknesses; that’s when we turn to Him (2 Cor 12:9).
*Though we sow in life, God determines what we reap (Gal 6:7; Prov 16:9; Ps 37:24).
*It is God who strengthens us in the inner man (Ps 10:17; Is 40:31; 41:10; Eph 3:16; Phil 4:13).
*God will perfect and complete the work He has begun in us (Phil 1:6; 1 Pet 5:10).
*God gives us the grace to not only believe in Christ but to suffer for His sake (Phil 1:29).
*God is at work in us to will and to do His good pleasure (Phil 2:13; Is 46:10; 55:11).
*God gives peace to those who prayerfully turn to Him in their anxiety (Phil 4:6-7; 2 Th 3:16).
*God gives us the grace to do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil 4:13).
*God supplies all of our needs according to His unlimited riches (Phil 4:19; 2 Cor 9:8).
*God gives us spiritual wisdom and the knowledge of His will when we pray for it (Col 1:9).
*Faithful is God who calls us; He will bring everything to pass (1 Th 5:24; 2 Tim 2:13; Ps 138:8).
*God sympathizes with our weaknesses and gives us grace & mercy (Heb 4:15-16; Ps 103:14).
*God blesses and rewards those who seek Him (Heb 11:6; Ps 37:4; 66:18; 84:11; Jer 29:11-14).
*Jesus is not only the author of our faith, He is the perfecter of it (Heb 12:2).
*God will never leave us or forsake us; He is always present & never abandons us (Heb 13:5).
*God equips & inspires us to do His will; our part is being willing to obey (Jn 7:17; Heb 13:21).
*God tests our faith in the furnace of affliction to perfect it (Jam 1:3-4; 1 Pet 1:6-7; Is 48:10).
*God gives us the crown of life when we persevere under trials (Jn 10:10; Jam 1:12; 5:11).
*God gives grace to the humble and opposes the proud (Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5; Is 66:2; Mic 6:8).
*When we draw near to God, He’ll draw near to us; intimacy is a two-way street (Jam 4:8).
*God forgives, restores and heals the souls of those who pray to Him (Jam 5:15-16; Ps 32:1-2).
*By humbly ingesting God’s Word we grow in our salvation (1 Pet 1:23; 2:2; Gal 3:3).
*When we stumble, Christ is our advocate before our Father in heaven (1 Jn 2:1; Ps 130:3-4).
*God gives us what we ask for when we ask in His name & obey Him (Jn 14:13; 1 Jn 3:22; 5:14).
*God is able to keep us from stumbling and stand blameless before Him (Jude 1:24).
*God goes before us and behind us in life; there are no surprises with God (Ps 139:5).
*The Lord is our shepherd, protector, deliverer, sustainer & healer (Ps 23:1; 41:1-4; 55:22; 72:12).
In bringing this study to a close, take the time and reflect upon the words of the great Protestant Reformer back in the 16th century, Martin Luther, who penned the words to the renowned hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” — this particular hymn became the premiere hymn of the Reformation Movement… as such, it became the battle cry of the people, and a great source of strength and inspiration to the entire believing world; may it also be an encouragement to your heart as well —
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe,
His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And tho this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph thru us.
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure;
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours thru Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever!
Obviously, there is a lot in this study to contemplate… Lord willing, you will do so and you will find it a great encouragement to your faith. May God richly bless you as you give application to the dynamic realities of the Christian life.